Download A Tough Act to Follow?: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 by Harold Furchtgott-Roth PDF

By Harold Furchtgott-Roth

The writer, who served as one of many 5 commissioners of the Federal Communications fee for numerous years, explains why this and different executive organizations that aren't organize with separation of powers in brain prove undermining the rule of thumb of legislation.

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Additional info for A Tough Act to Follow?: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Separation of Powers Failure

Sample text

8 During the deliberations on the telecommunications reform legislation in the 1970s–90s, speakers demanding retention of the status quo at the FCC were hard to find. Even so, for the next two decades, every major effort to change the Communications Act of 1934 failed. Yet dissatisfaction with the 1934 Act grew rather than abated. The problems facing the FCC also grew. By the mid-1990s, the growth of new technologies and new firms that had begun as a trickle in the 1970s turned into a torrent. Congress was aware that the Communications Act of 1934 was written during a different, simpler epoch of technology.

The government had set up much of the monopoly, prohibiting competition in the early part of the twentieth century. AT&T and “the phone company” were synonymous. 9 To end protracted litigation, in 1982 it entered with the Department of Justice into a consent decree, under whose terms it divested itself into eight companies: seven regional companies with local service assets such as switches, copper loops, and local customers; and the remaining assets—including long-distance services, international services, equipment manufacturing, and Bell Laboratories—under a company retaining the AT&T brand name.

But the combination of powers did have deleterious effects on the body politic nonetheless: erosion of the rule of law, weakening of democratic accountability, and a serious loss of governmental (and economic) efficiency. These subtle, even insidious, evils resulted from the structure of the FCC. It would be an exaggeration to claim that the combination of powers at the FCC created a crisis in government, a conspicuous mishandling of public activity. Government of the FCC’s form could function with a combination of powers, but not well; and by the mid-1990s, the problems reviewed in this chapter afflicted government regulation of the communications sector.

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