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Telecommunications Reform in the United States: Promises and Pitfalls

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  • Marius Schwartz

    (Georgetown University)

Abstract

The United States Congress recently enacted sweeping legislation to overhaul the rules governing competition in telecommunications services. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (see Congressional Record, 1996) is the first major rewrite of the Communications Act of 1934. It also supersedes the 1982 antitrust consent decree that broke up AT&T and barred the seven new regional Bell operating companies ("Bells") from manufacturing equipment and offering long-distance service. The stakes are high, as telecommunications ("telecom") are a critical element of a modern economy's backbone. The U.S. telecom sector's revenue in 1994 exceeded $200 billion: $150 billion in telephone service, $42 billion in broadcasting, and $28 billion in cable television (Economic Report of the President, 1996, chapter 6). The importance of the regulatory reforms in the 1996 Act as perceived by those in the best position to know--market participants--is reflected in the frenetic lobbying leading up to the Act (especially on its telephone provisions), and in the recent wave of corporate restructuring and shifting alliances reportedly driven by expectations of a new competitive environment. Regulatory reform enjoys broad support, but there is less agreement about its appropriate pace and nature. The road to reform holds both promises and pitfalls. This paper discusses the underlying economic issues, the progress made by the Act, and the challenges lying ahead as we move from regulated monopoly to competition. Although the U.S. is starting with regulated private monopolies, some of the discussion will be pertinent also for a transition to competition when starting with state monopolies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Industrial Organization with number 9607001.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: 11 Jul 1996
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:9607001

Note: Type of Document - WordPerfect ; prepared on Mac; to print on HP ; pages: 51 ; figures: included .
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Related research

Keywords: telecommunications reform; telecom act;

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References

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  1. Peter Cramton, 2002. "Spectrum Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 01hte, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 16 Jul 2001.
  2. Schwartz, Marius, 1986. "The Nature and Scope of Contestability Theory," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(0), pages 37-57, Suppl. No.
  3. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1996. "Creating Competition through Interconnection: Theory and Practice," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 227-56, November.
  4. Brown,Stephen J. & Sibley,David Sumner, 1986. "The Theory of Public Utility Pricing," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521314008.
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Cited by:
  1. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Rey, Patrick & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Competition between telecommunications operators," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-5), pages 701-711, April.

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