Regulating Communications: Stories from the First Hundred Years

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13 Green Bag 2d 303 (2010).  Glen O. Robinson, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission, 1974-76, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus University of Virginia School of Law.

This year we celebrate a century of electronic communications regulation. Well, maybe “celebrate” isn’t the right word. Critics of regulation will say that “lamentations” are the correct sentiment. For now let me finesse the question which of these expressions is the more suitable by saying simply that after a century of regulation it’s an appropriate time to take stock by asking some questions about what we have learned. In thinking about how to go about this task my first instinct was to outline a grand tour of the regulatory landscape, looking at each of its many parts. I quickly realized that this was a hopeless task for a lecture. No one outside the United Nations General Assembly would sit still for a lecture of such a length. So I chose a more selective, and suggestive, format based on a few stories from the century of regulation, stories from which one might provide, in President Obama’s phrase, “some teachable moments.” I chose three such stories.

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