Social Learning and the History of U.S. Telecommunications Policy, 1900-1996

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With the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress opened the door for an industry that was once heavily regulated to take bold steps in the directions of competition. Through an examination of nine major Federal Communications Commission rulemakings, more than fifteen years of legislative activity in Congress, and several other policy decisions undertaken during the 20th century, this study argues that the Telecommunications Act was part of a process of social learning in which federal regulators entered an enduring mindset of competition beginning in the late 1970s. Scholars interested in telecommunications issues and developmental theories of policy change will find this book particularly engaging.


“… a critically important story about the ways in which our legislators can move beyond short-term interest maximization, incrementalized routine and policy gridlock, and act as policy innovators and public servants of the first order….In telling this story and highlighting the role of ideas, deliberation and learning in it, Michael Zarkin makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of Congress and its capacity for innovative and transformative public policymaking.” – Lawrence C. Dodd, Manning J. Daur Chair in Political Science, University of Florida

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface by Lawrence C. Dodd
· Introduction
· Social Learning and Policymaking
· The Early Development of Telecommunications Policy (regulation, emergence, FCC; microwave controversy; FCC’s first computer inquiry; telephone-cable TV cross-ownership)
· Policy Disjunction and Epistemology Confusion (move toward deregulation; policy change, Execunet case; competition; US v. AT&T)
· Competition and Technological Integration at the FCC, 1984-1992 (access charge decision, price caps, telephone-cable competition)
· Congress and Telecommunications Policy Change, 1986-1996 (committees, leadership, policy, RBOCs, global competitiveness; Burns Bill, legislative proposals; passing the Telecommunications Act.)
· What Have We Learned? (implications for future research)
Appendix A: List of Coded Hearing Abstracts
Appendix B: Coding Frame for Hearing Abstracts
Bibliography; Index

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