The Antitrust Review of the Americas 2016

US: Telecoms

26 August 2015

In 2015, communications policymakers took bold measures to impose regulation on the internet. For decades, a fundamental goal of US telecommunications policy has been to transition from a regulated monopoly to a competitive market. Since the enforcement action of the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) against the AT&T monopoly opened long-distance markets to competition,1 antitrust enforcement has played a vital role in this effort. In subsequent years, Congress wrote the policy of relying on market principles to promote the growth and development of modern telecommunications services, such as the internet, directly into the Communications Act of 1934,47 USC § 151, et seq (the Communications Act).2 Technology has indeed flourished, but the telecommunications market has also seen significant consolidation. US policymakers have struggled with how to ensure network providers maintain an environment that gives consumers access to all legal content and enables innovation from application developers and content providers while encouraging network provider investment in broadband deployment. This debate has assumed the monikers of ‘net neutrality’ or ‘open internet’. While some policymakers have advocated for applying an antitrust framework exclusively to net neutrality issues,3 others have argued for the FCC to impose regulations.4 In 2015, advocates for regulation won a significant victory that will impact the application and enforcement of the antitrust laws in the US telecommunications industry for the foreseeable future.

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