From Sector-Specific Regulation to Antitrust Law for U.S. Telecommunications: The Prospects for Transition

Competition Policy and Antitrust, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing and Networks and Infrastructure

Article Snapshot


Howard Shelanski


UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 80


This paper looks at changes over time in telecommunications law, especially affecting mergers.

Policy Relevance

The FCC’s role in regulating telecommunications is likely to shrink in the long run. Other regulators will continue to oversee competition.

Main Points

  •  Over time, regulation of telecommunications by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been reduced. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continue to play a role as enforcers of antitrust law.

  • The FCC’s oversight of telecommunications mergers seems to duplicate the role of the DOJ and the FTC.

  • After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed, many firms in the telephone sector merged, and competition for local phone service did not develop as fast as expected.

  • This recent history means that it is likely the FCC will retain some role in examining mergers.

  • Slowly, economic and technological changes are laying the groundwork for a further reduction in the FCC’s role.

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