After 17 Years of Technological Innovation, the Telecommunications Act is Stuck in the 90’s


1. The Nokia 9000 was one of the most popular mobile phones, and one of the first to feature a shortened antennae.

2. Instead of that shiny MacBook, you might have been using something like this.

3. Steve Jobs would only return to the company that would make him an icon a year later, and had to adopt his trademark black turtleneck


4. America Online was at the forefront of the internet enterprise, and was still sending you these in the mail…

5. …and wouldn't release its Instant Messenger service for another year.

6. The DVD player had just been released, but only in Japan.

7. The original Sony PlayStation was the console to have.

8. Most of us navigated using these…

9. …Not this. Google Maps was still 9 years away. Google itself would not be incorporated for another 2 years.

10. The highest grossing movie was Independence Day, and you probably bought it on one of these.

11. Meanwhile, you might have played the top selling album, Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill, on something like this.

12. Remember Geocities? It was one of the most visited websites of 1996.

13. The original Apple iPod would be cutting edge technology… in 5 years.

14. Your dial-up internet connection might have used Netscape…

15. And this sound probably brings back painful memories.

16. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was still in middle school. Facebook wouldn't be around for another 8 years.

17. looked like this.


A lot has changed since 1996 in the telecommunications sector; however, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 hasn't changed at all.  Regulations are just a snap shot of the time, and aren't updated frequently enough to address changes in basic infrastructure or business models.  "Internet" was only mentioned twice in the entire Act, which had been under way for ten years prior to its enaction. 

Digital Liberty is calling attention to the fact that we should not apply these arcane regulations governing near obsolete TDM technology, like copper wires, to the Next Generation technologies, like fiber networks, and moves to completely IP based communications.  Any new regulations should be clearly thought through with built in flexibility for ever changing technologies and business models. 

Congress should give the FCC direction so they do not apply these stilted regulations to one of the major movers of the American Economy.  However, even in 1996 Congress did give the FCC a deregulatory direction for getting rid of out dated laws and forbearance for testing new technologies.  So while waiting for new direction from Congress, the FCC should use the deregulatory provisions built into the 1996 Telecommunications Act rather than attempting to expand its power based on outdated ideas of what constitutes connectedness and competition.