Telecommunication Law Fundamentals

The course focuses on the development of telecommunications law and policy as it relates to a variety of telecommunications technologies:

    • broadcast spectrum of radio and television
    • cable and satellite
  • wireline and cellular telephone
  • Internet.

Emphasis is placed on the interconnected nature of the media and the policy rationale and techniques for governmental oversight.

Course Objectives

The Course Objectives (COs) define the learning objectives that the student will be required to comprehend and demonstrate by course completion. Whenever possible, a reference will be made from a particular assignment or discussion back to the TCO that it emphasizes.

A Given the interconnectedness and substitutability of the different telecommunications technologies, understand the public interest implications of various uses and the role of the government in regulating markets and competition in the area.
B Given governmental ownership and licensing of the broadcast spectrum, identify and describe the goals and methods of the FCC in allocating and distributing this resource.
C Given First Amendment principles regarding the regulation of content, understand the public trustee obligations imposed on broadcasters in the form of the fairness doctrine and limitations on indecency, violence, and children’s programming.
D Given the natural monopoly tendency of telecommunications technologies like cable and telephony, understand the policies underlying governmental regulation and the methods employed to constrain prices.
E Given the close relationship of broadcast spectrum with cable and direct satellite, understand the principles governing copyright and licensing, syndication, and must-carry and retransmission consent.
F Given the historical origins and development of the telephone system, understand the conditions that gave rise to the Bell monopoly, the issues that led to ultimate divestiture, and the terms of the Bell breakup.
G Given the need for broad Federal regulation of telecommunications, understand the basic provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and its effect on local competition, line-of-business restrictions, universal service, and access charge reform.
H Given that regulation of the Internet is in a nascent stage of development, understand the nature of the Internet and the policy arguments relating to how it should be regulated and by whom.

This course uses


Readings/Class Preparation



Introduction to Telecommunication Law & Regulation

Chapter 1 – Why Regulate

Chapter 2 – The FCC

Chapter 3 – Zoning the Spectrum

Begin Course Project: Review and Formulation



Public Trustee & Competition in Cable & Broadcasting Natural Monopoly

Chapter 5 – Public Trustee Obligations

Chapter 8 – Foundations

Case Study: Natural Monopoly (due)

Course Project: Topic Proposal (due) 



Telephone Regulation: Economic, Regulatory, & Antitrust Theories

Chapter 13 – An Introduction to Telephone Regulation

Chapter 14 – Defining the Telephone Monopoly

Chapter 15 – Rate Regulation and Universal Service

Course Project: Outline (due) 



Implications and Impact of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

Chapter 16 – The Telecommunications Act of 1996  


Universal Service Principles

Chapter 17 – Unbundling, Interconnection, and Line-of-Business Regulation Under the 1996 Act

Chapter 18 – Universal Service and Access Charge Reform Under the 1996 Act

Course Project: References



Regulation of Internet Services

Chapter 19 – The Internet

Chapter 20 – Advanced Services



Mergers, Acquisitions, & Substitutability of Telecommunications Technologies

Chapter 21 – Antitrust and Merger Review in Telecommunications Final Project