The Telecommunications Act of 1996 adjusted the relative roles of federal and state regulators, increasing that of the states. Whereas the Communications Act of 1934 preserved state authority over intrastate rates and services, the 1996 Act specified state roles in interconnection, incumbent telephone company long distance market entry, and promotion of advanced services. It sent mixed signals on federal preemption of state regulators, and it reinforced a kind of cooperative federalism.22
Most directly relevant to broadband, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 calls for the FCC and states to encourage deployment of advanced technologies for telecommunications to all Americans on a reasonable and timely basis. But what satisfies “advanced,” “all,” “reasonable,” and “timely”? The act, in support of service to “all” Americans, calls for access to advanced telecommunications and information services in rural and high-cost areas to be “reasonably comparable” to that in urban areas in terms of price and quality. This formulation is interesting because it joins unregulated information services with regulated telecommunications services; what that implies for policy approaches and their targets is unclear. Specific provisions of the act related to broadband are summarized in Box 5.1, Chapter 5.