Federal Communications Commission

AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and foreign communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and CABLE TELEVISION. The FCC oversees the development and operation of broadcast services and the provision of nationwide and worldwide telephone and telegraph services. It also oversees the use of communications for promoting the safety of life and property and for strengthening the national defense. The FCC maintains a comprehensive web site: www.fcc.gov.

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The FCC was created by the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.) to regulate interstate and foreign communications by wire and radio in the public interest. The scope of its regulation includes radio and television broadcasting; telephone, telegraph, and cable television operation; two-way radio and radio operation; and satellite communication. The FCC is composed of five members who are appointed by the president. Only three of the commissioners may be members of the same political party at any given time. A review board and an office of general counsel assist the commission. In addition, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW judges conduct evidentiary adjudicatory hearings and write initial decisions. In January 2002, the FCC announced a major restructuring of several of its bureaus, reducing the number of bureaus from seven to six and renaming several of them.

Media Bureau

The Media Bureau combines the functions of the Mass Media and Cable Services Bureaus. The Mass Media Bureaus regulates the following services: amplitude modulation (AM), frequency modulation (FM), television, low-power television, translator, instructional television and related broadcast auxiliary, and directbroadcast satellite. The Media Bureau issues construction permits, operating licenses, and renewals or transfers of such broadcast licenses except for broadcast auxiliary services. The bureau also oversees compliance by broadcasters with statutes and FCC policies.

The division of the Media Bureau (formerly organized as the Cable Services Bureaus) develops, recommends, and administers policies and programs for the regulation of cable television systems. It advises the FCC on the development and regulation of cable television. Among its other responsibilities, the bureau investigates complaints from the public; coordinates with state and local authorities in matters involving cable television systems; and advises the public, other government agencies, and industry groups on cable television regulation and related matters.

Wireline Competition Bureau

The Common Carrier Bureau was renamed the Wireline Competition Bureau in 2002. This Bureau regulates interstate common carrier communications by telephone. Common carriers include companies, organizations, and individuals providing communications services to the public for hire, which must serve all who wish to use them at established rates. In providing interstate communications services, common carriers may employ landline wire or electrical or optical cable facilities.

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau administers all domestic commercial and private wireless TELECOMMUNICATIONS programs and policies. Commercial wireless services include cellular, paging, personal, specialized mobile radio, air-ground, and basic exchange telecommunications. Private wireless services include land mobile radio (including public safety, industrial, land transportation, and business), broadcast auxiliary, operational fixed microwave and point-to-point microwave, and special radio telecommunications. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau also implements laws and treaties covering...

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