Law and Regulation of Common Carriers in the Communications Industry

By Daniel L. Brenner | Go to book overview

1
PUBLIC UTILITY THEORY

INTRODUCTION TO COMMON CARRIER REGULATION

Introduction: The Telephone

"If I can get a mechanism which will make a current of electricity vary in its intensity, as the air varies in density when a sound is passing through it, I can telegraph any sound, even the sound of speech."

So declared Alexander Graham Bell in 1875 while experimenting with his "harmonic telegraph." On June 2 of that same year, by fashioning a makeshift diaphragm, this teacher of deaf persons discovered he could hear over a wire the sound of a twanging clock spring. Bell then knew it was possible to do what he had hoped--send vocal vibrations over a telegraph wire so they could be transformed into sound for a listener at the other end. Nine months later, on March 10, 1876, Bell transmitted the first complete sentence heard over a wire: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." His message was received by his associate, Thomas A. Watson, in an adjoining room of their tiny Boston laboratory.

Bell's invention, which was described in his patent as "Improvements in Telegraphy" (with no mention of the word telephone) has been described as the most valuable patent ever issued. The first day of that patent's filing involved governmental regulation, and regulation has been part of the life of telephones, and telecommunications, ever since.

A few hours later, but on the same day Bell's application was filed with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, Elisha Gray, cofounder of the Western Electric Company, came to the same office and filed a "caveat" or warning to other inventors for his invention of a speaking telephone. But for a few hours, Gray-- who would be backed by the mighty Western Union Telegraph Company in his unsuccessful fight--might have been known as the creator of the telephone.

The patent dispute was settled in 1879; Western Union gave up all its patent claims and its network of competing telephones in fifty-five cities in exchange for 20 percent of telephone receipts over the seventeen-year-life of the Bell patents. But, as had been the case with the telegraph, early efforts to popularize the telephone met with disappointment. Though people paid to

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Law and Regulation of Common Carriers in the Communications Industry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Public Utility Theory 1
  • 2 - Title II Regulation 45
  • 3 - Federal/State Jurisdiction 63
  • 4 - Statutory Requirements: Just and Reasonable"; "Unreasonable Discrimination"" 79
  • 5 - Dominant/Nondominant Carriers; Forbearance 96
  • 6 - Price Caps 116
  • 7 - Divestiture of the Bell System 159
  • 8 - Line of Business Restrictions 168
  • 9 - The Local Exchange: Access and Competition 186
  • 11 - International Telecommunications 274
  • 12 - Privacy 283
  • 13 - Convergence 299
  • Appendix A: Telecommunications Glossary 311
  • Appendix B: Communications Act of 1934 317
  • About the Book and Author 348
  • Case Index (principal Cases) 349
  • Index 351
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