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JILT 1999 (1) - Lesley Hitchens

Henk Brands and Evan T Leo

The Law and Regulation of
Telecommunications Carriers

Artech House (1999) GBP 78.00
vii + 735pp ISBN 0-89006-714-7

Reviewed by
Lesley P Hitchens
School of Law
University of Warwick

On the face of it this book may have a limited appeal for many readers of JILT: it is primarily a book about the United States regulation of telecommunications carriers; it is written for a student audience; and it is a case book, although a text and materials book would be a more accurate description. However, a closer look at the book reveals that it may have a more widespread utility. For anyone requiring an introduction to, and understanding of, the US legal framework for telecommunications, this very comprehensive book might well serve that purpose. It has the advantage of being relatively up to date (July 1998), but more importantly, of providing extensive coverage of the most significant recent legislation, namely the Telecommunications Act 1996. Perhaps, paradoxically, it is also of value because it generally provides an historical perspective on the regulatory framework.

Primarily the work's concern is with the Communications Act 1934 and the Telecommunications Act 1996 along with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) implementation of that framework. It has a lengthy and useful introduction (relying largely on text rather than extracts) to the topic explaining the nature and history of telecommunications regulation, outlining the relevant regulators and the current nature of the industry, and discussing some of the economic and technical matters which are relevant to the operation of telecommunications. Chapter two provides an outline of the legislation, whilst the next three chapters cover the traditional areas of telecommunications regulation, namely common carriage, rate regulation and universal service. As one might expect in this area, a substantial part of the book covers competition regulation of the telecommunications industry. Here the chronological coverage is most obvious because the authors take a chapter to consider each of the major competition (or anti-trust) developments for American telecommunications: the period up until the break up of the Bell system monopoly; the period between divestiture and the Telecommunications Act when competition was being encouraged in both local and long-distance markets; and, finally, the impact of the 1996 Telecommunications Act's pro-competitive thrust. It is in the chapters on competition also that the regulatory perspective becomes broader, because as the authors acknowledge "...some of the most far-reaching policy initiatives have come from antitrust regulators, not Congress or the FCC". Coverage of international telecommunications is also included.

A chapter is also included on what are termed 'adjacent markets', in other words applications, beyond simple voice telephony, which use telecommunications facilities such as data provision and cable television. It is here perhaps that the contemporary reader may find the book most disappointing, because with the developing convergence of the telecommunications, information technology and media industries, it is the intersection of these industries that are attracting some of the most interesting regulatory challenges and questions. There is however only limited treatment here. The authors are aware of this omission, but take the view (bearing in mind that the book is designed for a student course) that the book's coverage cannot sustain any further topics.

The general pattern of the chapters is to provide a mix of commentary, extracts and notes and questions. Generally the extracts consist of primary materials, both law reports and FCC rulings, although there are some secondary materials extracted also. The relevant legislation is provided in an appendix. Throughout the chapters, some further reading is provided although largely on an ad hoc basis, but a comprehensive and consolidated list of further reading might have been helpful. A good explanatory glossary is also provided.

As was indicated at the beginning of this review, this book's primary market is the student of telecommunications law. Whilst others coming to the area of telecommunications might prefer simply a text setting out an explanation of the area, the virtues of this book, in its coverage and comprehensiveness, and because it does provide ready access to primary materials, may also make it of use to the non-student reader.

This is a Book Review published on 26 February 1999.

Citation: Hitchens L, 'Henk Brands and Evan T Leo, The Law and Regulation of Telecommunications Carriers', Book Review, 1999 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

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