The Cable Act of 1984

Approximately 35 years ago, Congress passed the Cable Act of 1984, which deregulated the cable TV industry and promoted competition. In addition, it left the FCC with basically no jurisdiction over the industry, which is why cable channels can get away with so much more profanity, sex, and violence. The Cable Act of 1984 recognized the role of cable TV in enhancing the right of free expression. It was designed to “assure that cable communications provide and are encouraged to provide the widest possible diversity of information sources and services to the public.” If you really want to see a wide lineup of TV channels for your business, click here.

LEC, which stands for Local Exchange Carrier, is an acronym that resulted from The Telecommunications Act of 1996. To put this into perspective, however, let’s turn back the clock 14 years to the 1982 breakup of the Bell Operating Companies due to an antitrust suit brought against them by the federal government. At that time, the FCC required Bell to divest itself because they considered it a monopoly―it was. Along with providing customers choices, the FCC felt this would spur innovation―it did. Let’s be honest, when you’re a monopoly and there’s no competition pushing you to create the latest and greatest technological innovations, it’s easy to sit back, relax, and count your money. So, Bell had to divest itself into 7 independent companies, known as RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies), and each served regions of the country. The original 7 were Bell Atlantic, SBC Communications, Pacific Telesis, U.S. West, Ameritech, BellSouth, and NYNEX. Also, this legislation enabled IXCs (Interexchange Carriers) to carry long distance calls and prevented the RBOCs from doing so. So, when you signed up for phone service between 1982 through 1996, your local service would automatically be handled by the RBOC, but you were asked which long distance provider you’d like to use. The big IXC players of the day were AT&T (yes, it’s owned by Bell), Sprint, and MCI.

Fast forward to The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is when the acronym LEC was created. In that legislation, the federal government defined a LEC as any company that must now offer access to their telephone exchange for the purpose of originating or terminating calls. Yes, LEC was the same thing as RBOC. Here’s where it gets a little (more) confusing. The LECs became known as ILECs, or Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers, to differentiate them from CLECs (Competitive Exchange Carriers). So, the ILECs, previously the sole operator in an area, had to offer access to their telephone exchange to companies that wanted to carry your local service (aka CLECs). And the CLECs could paid access to specific elements of the ILEC’s network without having to pay for all of them. This is referred to as unbundling, but we’ll get to that later. Promise.

The 1996 legislation benefited the ILECs, as well. It was a trade-off, of sorts. They had to provide unbundled access to the CLECs in exchange for being able to carry long distance traffic and provide Internet access. Remember, it’s 1996―even though Internet access was in its infancy, it promised to be a huge source of revenue. So, as a result of The Telecommunications Act of 1996, you also were able to choose which provider you’d like to carry your local calls and provided even more options for long distance service and Internet access. Then came the mobile phone…