Communications law

Communications law [1] refers to the regulation of electronic communications by wire or radio.[2] It encompasses regulations governing broadcasting, telephone and telecommunications service, cable television, satellite communications,[3] wireless telecommunications, and the Internet.[4]

Areas of Communications LawEdit

Communications laws regulate the activities of a communications service provider and the use of public resources for the deployment of communications facilities and services[5] in the following broad areas:

Radiospectrum RegulationEdit

Rules for spectrum management governing who may make transmissions over the public airwaves and under what conditions;[6] Assignment of blocks of radio frequency for government, private, public, or commercial use by allocation or spectrum auction.[7]

Market RegulationEdit

Rules governing relationships between various communications industries and market participants designed to ensure the steady flow of communications and prevent market failures; Includes rules governing broadcast signal must-carry[8] and retransmission consent,[9] the interconnection of telecommunications facilities,[10] wireless network roaming, intercarrier compensation,[11] cable program access and carriage,[12] net neutrality,[13][14] and utility pole attachments.[15]

Content RegulationEdit

Rules prohibiting broadcast obscenity[16] and limiting the commercial content of children's programming; Rules to ensure media coverage of local events and to preserve diversity of viewpoints by preventing too much concentration of media ownership in local markets.[17]

Access to MarketsEdit

Rules designed to ensure communications markets are open to new entrants;[18] Includes regulations limiting state and local authority to charge excessive fees or deny access to the public right-of-way (transportation) for deploying communications facilities.[19]

Consumer ProtectionEdit

Ensuring the reasonableness of rates, terms, and conditions of communications services offered to the public, particularly in areas that lack competition in one or more services;[20] Rules requiring closed captioning and services for the hearing impaired; Review of communications provider mergers and acquisitions to ensure the public will benefit from the consolidation.[21][22]

Communications Law in the United StatesEdit

In the United States, the primary sources of communications law are the federal Communications Act of 1934, as amended by subsequent legislation including the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, the Cable Communications Act of 1984, the Satellite Home Viewer Act, the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. All of these federal statutes are codified at Title 47 of the United States Code. Communications law also includes various state laws regulating public utilities,[23] telecommunications,[24] cable television,[25] and wireless antennas.[26][27] Communications regulations are promulgated under Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the United States Department of Commerce, and in state regulatory codes by the Public Utilities Commission of each state. Communications lawyers are represented by the Federal Communications Bar Association, an organization for attorneys and engineers involved in "the development, interpretation and practice of communications law and policy."[28]


  1. ^ Kang, Jerry. Communications Law and Policy: Cases and Materials. Aspen Publishers, 2001.
  2. ^ "Georgetown Law Curriculum Guide". Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  3. ^ Rothblatt, Martin A. "Impact of International Satellite Communications Law upon Access to the Geostationary Orbit and the Electromagnetic Spectrum, The." Tex. Int'l LJ 16 (1981): 207.
  4. ^ Geller, Henry. "Communications Law--A Half Century Later." Fed. Comm. LJ 37 (1985): 73.
  5. ^ Brotman, Stuart N. Communications Law and Practice. Law Journal Press, 2010.
  6. ^ Manner, Jennifer A. Spectrum Wars: The Policy and Technology Debate. Artech House Publishers, 2003.
  7. ^ Bykowsky, Mark M., Robert J. Cull, and John O. Ledyard. "Mutually Destructive Bidding: The FCC Auction Design Problem." Journal of Regulatory Economics 17.3 (2000): 205-228.
  8. ^ Peritz, Marc. "Turner Broadcasting v. FCC: A First Amendment Challenge to Cable Television Must-Carry Rules." Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 3 (1994): 715.
  9. ^ Lubinsky, Charles. "Reconsidering Retransmission Consent: An Examination of the Retransmission Consent Provision (47 USC 325 (b)) of the 1992 Cable Act." Fed. Comm. LJ 49 (1996): 99.
  10. ^ Gilo, David. "A Market Based Approach to Telecom Interconnection." Southern California Law Review 77.1-51 (2003).
  11. ^ Ryen, Jeffrey I. "Battle over Reciprocal Compensation: The FCC's Ongoing Struggle to Regulate Intercarrier Compensation Fees for ISP-Bound Traffic, The." BUJ Sci. & Tech. L. 8 (2002): 614.
  12. ^ Waterman, David. "Vertical Integration and Program Access in the Cable Television Industry." Fed. Comm. LJ 47 (1994): 511.
  13. ^ Crawford, Susan P. "The Internet and the Project of Communications Law." bepress Legal Series (2007): 1996.
  14. ^ Fedeli, Christopher. "Carpool Lanes on the Internet: Effective Network Management," 26 Comm. Law. 1 (2009).
  15. ^ Huettner, David A. "Optimal Second Best Pricing of CATV Pole Attachments." Southern Economic Journal (1982): 996-1015.
  16. ^ "FCC website". Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  17. ^ Owen, Bruce M. "Regulatory Reform: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the FCC Media Ownership Rules." L. Rev. MSU-DCL (2003): 671.
  18. ^ Brito, Jerry, and Jerry Ellig. "Video Killed the Franchise Star: The Consumer Cost of Cable Franchising and Policy Alternatives." Available at SSRN 893606 (2006).
  19. ^ Esbin, Barbara S., and Gary S. Lutzker. "Poles, Holes and Cable Open Access: Where the Global Information Superhighway Meets the Local Right-of-Way." CommLaw Conspectus 10 (2001): 23.
  20. ^ Harris, Robert G., and C. Jeffrey Kraft. "Meddling Through: Regulating Local Telephone Competition in the United States." The Journal of Economic Perspectives 11.4 (1997): 93-112.
  21. ^ "FCC website". Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  22. ^ Koutsky, Thomas M., and Lawrence J. Spiwak. "Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of the Public Interest Standard." CommLaw Conspectus 18 (2009): 329.
  23. ^ "Pole Attachments" (PDF). National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
  24. ^ Podsada, Janice. "Coalition Opposes Bill to Revamp State Telecommunications Laws". The Hartford Courant.
  25. ^ Eleff, Bob. New State Cable TV Franchising Laws. Research Department, Minnesota House of Representatives, 2006.
  26. ^ "Zoning Regulations and Antenna Siting" (PDF). Princeton University. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  27. ^ Evans, Sara A. "Wireless Service Providers v. Zoning Commissions: Preservation of State and Local Zoning Authority Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996." Ga. L. Rev. 32 (1997): 965.
  28. ^ "Federal Communications Bar Association website". Retrieved 3 March 2013.