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Working Paper

Transformative Choices: A Review of 70 Years of FCC Decisions

Sherille Ismail, OSP  

FCC Staff Working Paper 1 (Oct 2010) presents a historical review of a series of pivotal FCC decisions that helped shape today’s communications landscape. These decisions generally involve the appearance of a new technology, communications device, or service.  In many cases, they involve spectrum allocation or usage.  Policymakers no doubt will draw their own conclusions, and may even disagree, about the lessons to be learned from studying the past decisions.

From an academic perspective, however, a review of these decisions offers an opportunity to examine a commonly-asserted view that U.S. regulatory policies — particularly in aviation, trucking, and telecommunications — underwent a major change in the 1970s, from protecting incumbents to promoting competition. This paper therefore examines whether that general view is reflected in FCC policies. It finds that there have been several successful efforts by the FCC, before and after the 1970s, to promote new entrants, especially in the markets for commercial radio, cable television, telephone equipment, and direct broadcast satellites.

This paper is the first in an agency-wide research paper series that replaces all of the earlier working paper series that had been issued by individual bureaus and offices. It is intended to encourage staff research that furthers the “expert” function of the agency and builds agency intellectual capital. This active research program is managed by the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis (OSP).

Issued: October 2010

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