Presentation Notes – Media/Communications Regulations


Control (ownership + regulation) of media/communications tools


  • Range of tools/differences among them?
  • **Good idea for more or less regulation?**
  • How easy is it to circumvent regulation?
  • Who are the regulators and what are the structures they take?
  • Who controlled the printing press?


  1. 1934 Communications Act  (see text here)
    1. “To provide for the regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio, and for other purposes.” (see link above)
    2. FCC
    3. Universal Service
      1. FCC Definition,
    4. Common Carrier
      1. Communications Act, starting on page 35
  2. AT&T/Bell Systems
    1. “The U.S. government allowed AT&T, then the monopoly provider, to operate in a non-competitive environment in most areas of the country in exchange for the federal and state government regulation of price and service quality.” FCC website
    2. “Winning By Losing: The AT&T Settlement and Its Impact on Telecommunications,” Yale Journal on Regulation, 1983
    3. “Keeping the Internet Competitive,” Tim Berners Lee (**this article comes up in just about every section – it’s a great place to start**)
  3. 1996 Telecommunications Act (see text here)
    1. “The goal of this new law is to let anyone enter any communications business — to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.” FCC page
      1. Deregulation
      2. Cross-media ownership
        1. The Wikipedia page for “mass media”
    2. “Keeping the Internet Competitive,” Tim Berners Lee
    3. History of the Internet, Progressive Policy Institute (progressive nonprofit think tank)
    4. Was the 1996 successful at its mission?
  4. Internet ecosystem – who are the players and what do they do?
    1. Broadband ISPs
    2. Content providers (data centers with racks of serves)
    3. Backbone
      1. ‘The emergence of the internet offered a new way forward. The internet’s protocols establish a fundamental, and important, division of labor: On one end are providers of access to the internet, mostly phone and cable companies like Verizon and Comcast. On the other are providers of content through the internet — the vast array of web sites from which people around the world derive entertainment, get their news, conduct online commerce, and so forth. Between them are yet more companies maintaining the basic infrastructure of the internet’s “backbone” — the massive networks of cables and switches necessary to route data around the globe.’ “Keeping the Internet Competitive,” Tim Berners Lee
      2. Cloudflare blog post, “Why We Terminated the Daily Stormer”
      3. **need more on “backbone”
  5. Consolidation/growth of ISPs + Response (Net Neutrality)
    1. Chart about consolidation of ISPs since 1993, Pew Research
    2. “Keeping the Internet Competitive,” Tim Berners Lee
    3. Comcast vs. Netflix
    4. Few choices for the consumer
      2. (D.C. consulting firm, no obvious political affiliations)
    5. Net Neutrality
  6. Consolidation/growth of companies that control content side of internet
    1. “Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.” Cloudflare blog post, “Why We Terminated the Daily Stormer”
  7. Internet and international regulation
    1. Google fined by the EU
    2. Internet regulation in trade agreements (EFF)
  8. Non-governmental regulatory bodies
    1. World Wide Web Consortium
  9. Regulation = Reflection of Values
    1. Equal Time Rule: encourages diversity of opinions
      1. In contrast to FCC chair Ajit Pai wanting to abolish regulation that says you can’t own broadcast organization and newspaper
    2. China and regulation of content
      1. This week: In response to abolished term limits, censoring of letter “n” and Winnie the Pooh
      2. The Great Firewall
      3. Chart of countries with worst internet freedom and the methodologies/data for determining it*
    3. Repeal of Net Neutrality despite support from public to keep it
    4. Driving force but also indicator of values


*Interesting note: Freedom House (US gov’t-funded nonprofit that researches and advocates for democracy and human rights) defines internet freedom in three parts:

  • Obstacles to access: infrastructural and economic barriers to access, legal and ownership control over internet service providers , and independence of regulatory bodies
  • Limits on content: legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking of websites, self-censorship, the vibrancy and diversity of online news media, and the use of digital tools for civic mobilization;
  • Violations of user rights: surveillance, privacy, and repercussions for online speech and activities, such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment, or cyberattacks

I’ve focused on the first two areas in thinking about this topic, but the third is also interesting in this context (out of the three categories, this is the one in which the US scores the worst)

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