A Brief History of American Telecommunications Regulation

Oxford Encyclopedia of Legal History, Forthcoming

10 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2007

See all articles by Tim Wu

Tim Wu

Columbia University - Law School


While the history of governmental regulation of communication is at least as long as the history of censorship, the modern regulation of long-distance, or "tele," communications is relatively short and can be dated to the rise of the telegraph in the mid-19th century. The United States left the telegraph in private hands, unlike countries and as opposed to the U.S. postal system, and has done the same with most of the significant telecommunications facilities that have been developed since. The decision to allow private ownership of telecommunications infrastructure has led to a rather particularized regulation of these private owners of public infrastructure - similar to other laws governing "regulated industries," yet also influenced by the U.S. First Amendment and antitrust law.

Keywords: telecommunications, regulation, history

Suggested Citation

Wu, Tim, A Brief History of American Telecommunications Regulation. Oxford Encyclopedia of Legal History, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=965860

Tim Wu (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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