Dates of Change: How the FCC Pirated Freedom
Summaries by Rick Hoar
December 21, 2010

December 15, 1791
The First U.S. Congress ratifies the Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. Amendment I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

December 24, 1906
Reginald Fessenden makes the world's first radio broadcast from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts. He plays O Holy Night on his violin and reads a Bible passage to ships at sea the night before Christmas.

January 24, 1909
The RMS Republic collides with and sinks the SS Florida in dense fog at night, 50 miles off of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Wireless Telegraph operators on board and ashore use radio technology to initiate rescue efforts, credited for saving more than 1,000 passengers from the freezing, shark-infested waters of the North Atlantic.

June 24, 1910
Congress passes the Wireless Ship Act of 1910, and it is signed into federal law. U.S. ships are heretofore required to carry radio communications gear. The Department of Commerce and Labor is directed to enforce the new legislation.

April 15, 1912
The RMS Titanic collides with an iceberg and sinks in the northern Atlantic Ocean. 1,517 people die in the maritime catastrophe, the worst to ever occur outside of war.

August 13, 1912
In reaction to the Titanic disaster, the Radio Act of 1912 is passed by Congress and signed into law, requiring the licensing of all radio operators on land and sailing from the U.S. They will be granted solely by the Department of Commerce and Labor.

November 19, 1921
In Hoover v. Intercity Radio Co., Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court denies Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's assertion that the federal government can opt not to grant a broadcast license to a qualified applicant based only on a scarcity of unlicensed spectrum.

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."

November 11, 1925
Secretary Hoover's Fourth Radio Conference concludes in Washington, D.C. Industry leaders in attendance affirm that broader regulation is required to protect the public interest as it pertains to broadcast access.

April 16, 1926
In United States v. Zenith Radio Corporation et al., the U.S. Supreme Court denies Secretary Hoover the ability to revoke a broadcast license based on its misuse according to the terms by which the Department of Commerce had issued it. The federal government's regulation of wireless communication is essentially nullified under the Radio Act of 1912.

February 23, 1927
The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) is created in the United States government by Congress as the Radio Act of 1927 is signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge. The FRC is a five-person panel, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Commission is responsible for granting and denying radio licenses and overseeing the allocation of the radio spectrum in the United States. The Act further stipulates that radio programming can not include "obscene, indecent, or profane language."

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...[?]"

June 19, 1934
The Federal Radio Commission is replaced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the signing of the Communications Act of 1934 into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The FCC is mandated the same overreaching wireless authority as the FRC, but it is additionally given regulatory control over wired telegraph networks and the ownership of broadcast networks.

September 30, 1948
The FCC announces a "freeze" on the granting of new television licenses in the United States. Community Antenna Television (CATV) and paid cable systems grow in popularity as a means to provide content to areas without broadcast coverage, eventually evolving into the modern cable industry.

April 23, 1965
First Report and Order by the Federal Communications Commission on CATV is issued by the FCC. The Commission gives itself authority over wired cable networks in order to protect local stations from competition. The Supreme Court upholds this appointment in 1968 in United States v. Southwestern Cable Co.

October 29, 1969
A digital message is transmitted over the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's ARPANET system as Internet technology is field tested for the first time.

April 30, 1993
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announces the World Wide Web project, a platform-independent utilization of Internet Protocols that is to be fee-free and open.

February 8, 1996
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is signed into U.S. law. This sweeping legislation reverses the FCC's historic trend of tightly regulating broadcast networks. The result, however, is an environment of more-concentrated media ownership across the United States. Additional provisions include a declaration of federal supremacy over local statutes that might impede entry into broadcast markets and the prohibition of telecommunications service providers from obstructing interconnectedness with their systems by competing network operators.

August 5, 2005
The FCC issues an Internet policy statement, declaring its own authority over "Information Service Providers" for the purpose of preserving access neutrality, citing its ability to "impose additional regulatory obligations under its [1996] Title I ancillary jurisdiction to regulate interstate and foreign communications.”

August 20, 2008
The FCC orders Comcast Corporation to stop filtering Internet traffic on its network originating from peer-to-peer file sharing after subscribers discover their communications with the application BitTorrent are being intentionally degraded by the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

April 6, 2010
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules that the Federal Communications Commission is not authorized to regulate the network management policies of ISP's in Comcast v. FCC.

June 21, 2010
FCC officials meet with wireless data carriers in a controversial closed-door meeting. Industry leaders in attendance affirm that broader regulation is required to protect the public interest as it pertains to wireless broadband access.

December 21, 2010
The FCC declares that Internet communications shall be subject to neutrality-oriented regulation by the United States government, while wireless Internet Service Providers will be allowed to operate under relaxed Net-Neutrality standards, in consideration of the wireless data industry's relative nascence.