a century of U.S. federal communications regulation

On this day, a century ago, the U.S. Congress established federal communication regulation under the Mann-Elkins Act.  The Mann-Elkins Act, enacted on June 18, 1910, extended the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission to interstate communications.  Central principles of communications common carrier regulation thus have roots in the Interstate Commerce Commission’s regulation of railroads.

The communications industry has grown to offer mind-boggling marvels.  Anyone with Internet access has access to a huge repository of knowledge and human creations, a word press that does color photographs and video at no extra charge, and worldwide text, photo, and video distribution.  You can carry around a small device that allows you to communicate by voice or video with billions of persons around the world.  It can store all the music you could ever hear, and many movies, too.  It knows your location, offers you any map you want, and tells you local information that interests you. What’s truly unbelievable is now real.

However you look at it, a century of communications industry regulation and communications industry development has produced results worth celebrating.  Celebrate a century of federal communications regulation by studying data on telephone companies that the Interstate Commerce Commission collected in 1917. Even better, celebrate a century of federal communications regulation by being grateful for dedicated, hard-working, and public-spirited federal communications regulators.

Note: The text of the Mann-Elkins Act, 36 Stat 539 (1910), is available online in this fine collection of early U.S. Statutes at Large.  The Mann-Elkins Act is in volume 36, Part 1, text page 539 (pdf file page 568).

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