Telecommunications Act Of 1996 Essay

1812 words - 7 pages

In an attempt to reign-in the explosion of telecommunication technology, congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This massive act comprehensively addresses virtually every current aspect of telecommunications. It is the first major telecommunications legislation enacted since the Communications Act of 1934, which essentially established the air waves as public property, regulated by the government.Major provisions in the media include major restructuring of the telephone industry, deregulation of the cable industry, and limitations in content of broadcast and network media. In a seeming about-face in the Bell breakup of 1984, the seven regional bells are now able to compete in the long distance arena. Long distance companies may now offer local service. There are no more prohibitions on cross-ownership in the telephone or cable industries. In fact, phone companies may now offer cable service and cable companies may offer telephone service.While much of the bill's spirit is that of deregulation, some of the Act imposes strict new regulation. Chief among these is the Communications Decency Act, which is embedded in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This is, by far, the most controversial and disputed portion of the Telecom Act. The Communications Decency Act, which is aimed at the internet and online computer services, imposes stiff criminal penalties for any person who transmits obscene materials over a computer network.Of questionable legality in the Communications Decency Act is the international jurisdiction over the internet, which has no borders. The CDA criminalizes the transmission of"any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or othercommunication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, orindecent, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass anotherperson, or, any comment, request, suggestion, image, or othercommunication which is obscene or indecent, knowing therecipient of the communication is under 18 years of age,regardless of whether the maker of such communicationinitiated the communication."The content of the above provisions is so broad in scope that anybody could be charged for practically any transmission if the receiver of the transmission is merely annoyed! Under this provision, I am certain of my own demise for annoying people! The American Civil Liberties Union, upon passage of the Act, promptly filed an injunction in the United States District Court in Pennsylvania. The ACLU contended that "indecent" material was constitutionally protected under the first amendment and that any regulation thereof was forbidden. The ACLU also addressed the overly broad wording of the CDA in the context of punitive regulation. Specifically, they avowed that the CDA violated the first, fourth, fifth, and ninth amendments. In thirty pages of allegations, the ACLU made compelling arguments, and a three-panel court imposed an injunction on the CDA.The future of the Communications Decency Act looks shaky. Unless it is...

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