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Berkeley Technology Law Journal



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Through the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress imposed long overdue duties and structural limits on the telephone, broadcasting, and cable industries. Though the 1934 law was bold and important, legislators unwittingly enabled a handful of companies to concentrate power in those markets.

As needed as it was, the Telecommunications Act also had flaws. Congress’s structureof- the-market approach in 1996 did not protect against disparities in consumers’ access. Nor did it (or could it) anticipate the informational harms that the internet would facilitate or enable.

These concerns ought to be the primary focus of reform today. To be sure, the Federal Communications Commission remains essential to promoting equality in the access to and use of communications infrastructure. But the Federal Trade Commission should now also play a greater role in light of the consumer-facing issues that have emerged. And it can do this pursuant to the authority it has under its enabling statute. Congress, too, can do more to liberalize, broaden, and sharpen the Federal Communications Commission’s authority.

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