Telecommunications law pertains to the systems of electronic communications and broadcasting across the United States. This area is heavily regulated by federal law and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Telecommunications law received a major overhaul in 1996 with the introduction of the Telecommunications Act. The Act replaced the prior Communications Act which had been in effect for more than 60 years. It was the first time that the Internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment, provided for media cross-ownership, and to allow for broader competition of any communications business against another through deregulation of the converging broadcasting and telecommunications markets. While the Telecommunications Act was a huge step forward, it left many new questions as technology has developed. The Act could not contemplate the spread of wireless services, VoIP, video conferencing, and satellite/cable television services. As a result, a wide array of new and emerging legal issues continue to confront attorneys and members of the telecommunications industry.
For more information on this ever-evolving area of the law, review the resources listed below. Additionally, if you are looking for an attorney who practices in Telecommunications Law, click the “Law Firms” tab on the menu bar, above.
Telecommunication Law - US
- Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47 - Telecommunication
The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It is not an official legal edition of the CFR. The e-CFR is an editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments produced by the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Printing Office.
- Communications Decency Act
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet. In 1997, in the landmark cyberlaw case of Reno v. ACLU, the U.S. Supreme Court partially overturned the law. The Act was Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was introduced to the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation by Senators James Exon (D-NE) and Slade Gorton (R-WA) in 1995. The amendment that became the CDA was added to the Telecommunications Act in the Senate by an 84–16 vote on June 14, 1995.
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC's jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.
- Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)
The Media Law Resource Center – formerly the Libel Defense Resource Center – is a non-profit information clearinghouse originally organized by a number of media organizations to monitor developments and promote First Amendment rights in the libel, privacy and related legal fields.
- National Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website. You can register your home or mobile phone for free.
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is an agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce that serves as the executive branch agency principally responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information policies. In this role, NTIA frequently works with other Executive Branch agencies to develop and present the Administration's position on these issues. Since its creation in 1978, NTIA has been at the cutting edge of critical issues. In addition to representing the Executive Branch in both domestic and international telecommunications and information policy activities, NTIA also manages the Federal use of spectrum; performs cutting-edge telecommunications research and engineering, including resolving technical telecommunications issues for the Federal government and private sector; and administers infrastructure and public telecommunications facilities grants.
- SAFECOM - Department of Homeland Security
The tragic events of 9/11 clarified the critical importance of effective emergency responder communication systems. The lack of emergency response interoperability is a long-standing, complex, and costly problem with many impediments to overcome. Interoperability is the ability of emergency response agencies to talk to one another via radio communication systems—to exchange voice and/or data with one another on demand, in real time, when needed and when authorized.
- Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Section 255)
The Telecommunications Act of 1996, a comprehensive law overhauling regulation of the telecommunications industry, recognizes the importance of access to telecommunications for people with disabilities in the Information Age. Section 255 of the Act requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities. This is required to the extent access is "readily achievable," meaning easily accomplishable, without much difficulty or expense. If manufacturers cannot make their products accessible then they must design products to be compatible with adaptive equipment used by people with disabilities, where readily achievable. What is "readily achievable" will be different for each manufacturer based on the costs of making products accessible or compatible and their resources.
- Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR)
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) puts consumers in charge of the number of telemarketing calls they get at home. The TSR established the National Do Not Call Registry, which makes it easier and more efficient for consumers to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing sales calls they get.
Telecommunication Law - International
- BIS - International Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy
The communications and media industries have a huge impact on individuals, business, consumers and citizens. The UK needs this sector to be innovative, energetic and competitive, ready to respond to the challenges presented by our ever changing communications environment, and as a key factor contributing to the success of our companies in an increasingly globalised economy.
- Canadian Radio -Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
The CRTC’s mandate is to ensure that both the broadcasting and telecommunications systems serve the Canadian public. The CRTC uses the objectives in the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act to guide its policy decisions.
- European Commission - Communication
The mission of the Directorate General for Communication is to keep the general public and the media up to date on EU activities. We coordinate the work of the Commission representation offices in the member countries. In partnership with member states and other EU institutions, we manage communication projects taking into account national specificities. And we monitor public opinion and organise EU information activities.
- International Institute of Communication
The IIC is an independent, non-profit, dynamically-engaged forum for industry, government and academia to analyse and debate trends in communications, including the Internet, telecommunications, broadcasting, print and new media and their impact on society. The goal of the IIC is to provide a global framework for dialogue and to promote access to communications for all people of the world.
- International Journal of Communications Law and Policy (IJCLP)
Welcome to the International Journal of Communications Law and Policy. Founded by an international team from the Universities of Münster, Oxford, Warwick and Yale and edited by legal scholars from the Universities of Yale, Milan, Singapore, Münster and the European University Institute, Florence, the IJCLP is an electronic journal devoted to the changing law, policy and technology of media regulation around the world. As a result of technological convergence, we understand "communication" to include the content and carriage of traditional broadcasting and cable as well as internet and telecommunications and welcome the submission of intellectually rigorous and challenging articles, working papers and editorials in these areas of inquiry.
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues, and the global focal point for governments and the private sector in developing networks and services. For nearly 145 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems and addressed the global challenges of our times, such as mitigating climate change and strengthening cybersecurity.
Organizations Related to Telecommunication Law
- Benton Foundation - Spectrum Management Advisory Committee
The Benton Foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. We pursue this mission by seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity, and by demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications for improving the quality of life for all.
- Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS)
The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) is the research and engineering laboratory of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). ITS supports such NTIA telecommunications objectives as promotion of advanced telecommunications and information infrastructure development in the United States, enhancement of domestic competitiveness, improvement of foreign trade opportunities for U.S. telecommunications firms, and facilitation of more efficient and effective use of the radio spectrum.
- Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC)
The basic function of the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC) is to assist the Assistant Secretary in assigning frequencies to U.S. Government radio stations and in developing and executing policies, programs, procedures, and technical criteria pertaining to the allocation, management, and use of the spectrum. The IRAC consists of a main committee, 6 subcommittees, and several ad hoc working groups that consider various aspects of spectrum management polic
- Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP)
For the past 40 years, PTFP has played a major role in the development of public broadcasting throughout the United States. With the program's assistance, a public television signal now reaches about 95% of our nation's population and public radio reaches approximately 90% of the population. The program also funds radio reading services, closed captioning and descriptive video services for the disabled, and numerous distance learning facilities that provide instructional programming for students and professionals.
- US International Communication and Information Policy Group (CIP)
The International Communication and Information Policy (CIP) group is part of the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. CIP leads the Executive Branch policy-development process for international communications and information issues, and serves as the United States’ advocate around the world.
Publications Related to Telecommunication Law
- Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ)
The Federal Communication Law Journal is one of three academic journals published by Indiana University law students. The FCLJ is the official journal for the Federal Communications Bar Association and, in serving this important role, often features articles and essays by commissioners in the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") as well as members of Congress. FCLJ publishes three issues per year which feature articles, book reviews, student notes and commentaries focusing on domestic and international communications issues. Select students are invited to join the staff of the FCLJ during the summer following their first year of law school. Invitations are extended based on first year academic performance, and a writing competition held at the end of the first year. Students select articles for publication, edit and proofread these articles, and verify the accuracy and form of cited sources. The journal also publishes several student-written articles.
- Telecom Law Report
Unique among publications covering the telecom field, Telecom Law Report provides a comprehensive review of the initiatives and formal decisions of the FCC, the courts, Congress and the White House—every month. It is certain to increase your knowledge and understanding of this constantly changing area of law.
- The European Telecommunications Law Blog
Updated information and critical comments on the evolution of telecommunications law in Europe.
Articles on HG.org Related to Telecommunication Law
- Can Anyone Stop Me From Putting Up a Satellite Dish?As options for television channels have increased, satellite TV has become a very popular alternative to cable. Unfortunately, to receive these broadcasts, one needs to install a satellite dish on the outside of a building, and this can lead to disputes. Thus, many ask “can anyone stop me from putting up a satellite dish?”
- A Website Published Embarrassing Content About Me, What Can I Do?The Internet has brought many benefits to modern civilization. Unfortunately, just as with any technology, it also has a dark side. So, when a website publishes embarrassing content about you, what can you do?
- How Do Movies, TV Shows, Music, and Video Games Get Rated for Content?Most parents are concerned with the things their children see and hear in the media. It is an ugly world out there, and while it may be inevitable that they will eventually learn about all of those things, most parents do not want their kids to see graphic violence or mature content or hear offensive language at too your an age.
- Someone Hacked My Phone or Computer, What Can I Do?There are few things that feel more violating than finding that someone has hacked into your phone or computer. When this happens, the first reaction may be to call the authorities and report the breach. But, many are surprised to find that police are not always terribly interested to hear about the event. So, what can you do if someone hacks your computer or phone?
- What Protections Does The Americans with Disabilities Act Provide?The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to help the United States benefit from the skills and talents of individuals who happen to have disabilities. It strives to break down barriers individuals with disabilities experienced regarding employment, public accommodations, public services, transportation and telecommunications.
- I'm Being Harassed on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter; What Are My Legal Options?Cyber-bullying has become a very big problem in America, and it is not just limited to children. Every day, thousands of people have to contend with negative, abusive, insulting, and threatening comments posted on, or linked to, their social media accounts. This has left many to wonder if there is anything they can do – from a legal standpoint – to protect themselves.
- When Is It Legal to Download Music, Movies, or Software Via Torrents on the Internet?Since the rise of the Internet, the illegal sharing of music, movies, and software have been an ongoing concern. Still, not every peer-to-peer network for sharing various forms of media is illegal, and some companies have even found it desirable to begin distributing materials in this fashion. So, when is it legal to download music, movies, or software via torrents on the Internet?
- What Are Common American Censorship Laws?How often have we heard someone say “It's a free country, I can say what I want to?” In most cases, that person is correct. But, America does not always allow free speech without constraint.
- What is Net Neutrality and Why Should You Care?Much has been made over the last few years about net neutrality. Still, most people are confused by what this term refers to and why it matters. This confusion is understandable given the misleading nature of the name, and the way it is often misapplied in the media. But, net neutrality is actually a very important concept to understand and one that could directly impact the way the Internet works and how we all use it.
- Northern Border Security: Impact of Canada's Anti-Spam Law on American BusinessesWhen you think of countries leading the cyber-security charge, chances are that Canada is not the first name on your list. That has changed. On July 1, 2014, Canada implemented the new Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (“CASL”), which arguably is the strictest anti-spam legislation in the world.
- All Science and Technology Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Science and Technology including: biotechnology, chemical law, computer and software, data protection, information technology, internet law, research and development, telecommunications law.