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Communications law is primarily related to the regulation of computer telecommunications, cable, internet, as well as radio and television broadcasting. The federal government has largely governed broadcasting because by its nature, broadcasting transcends state boundaries.

Congress created and delegated its authority in communications to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Under the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC was given power to regulate and control "radio communications." Such communications were held to include the transmission by radio of writing, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds of all kinds.  Additional powers Congress has delegated (under 47 U.S.C. § 332) to the FCC include the power to set forth standards for mobile services. 

Extensive federal regulation has left states with little if any role in governing broadcast communications. For example, states cannot regulate the content of the programs broadcast (even if the television station is situated within the state) and cannot require that motion pictures broadcast over the station be submitted to a state board of censors for approval.

Federal Material

U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
  • 47 U.S.C.
  • CRS Annotated Constitution
Federal Agency Regulations
  • Code of Federal Regulations: 47 C.F.R. - Telecommunication
Federal Judicial Decisions
  • U.S. Supreme Court:
  • Recent Decisions on Communications

State Material

State Statutes
  • State Statutes Dealing with Utilities and Transportation

International Material

Conventions and Treaties
  • International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (1961)
  • Performances & Phonograms Treaty (World Intellectual Property Organization 1996)

Key Internet Sources

  • Federal Agencies:
  • Congressional Committees
    • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    • House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology 
  • Organizations
    • American Communication Association
    • Electronic Frontier Foundation
    • International Telecommunication Union
    • ABA Forum on Communications Law

[Last updated in May of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]