The overall organization of the United States telecommunications industry has changed greatly over the last several years, including the division of the Bell System, cable system providers’ conversion into telecommunication providers, establishment of the Internet, widespread use of the Internet, and the formation and expansion of the wireless services market. Dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure can be challenging, but with the rate at which telecommunications are evolving and the key role that telecommunications play across virtually every sector worldwide, the dissection is necessary in order to gain a better understanding.
The changes that have occurred in the last couple of decades have resulted in a vast number of benefits, including a wider offering of telecommunication services, competition in the market, and an environment where innovation is fast-paced and new products are brought to market at ever-increasing speeds.
Telecommunications in the United States is governed by telecommunications policy, which is a structure of law led by government and the Regulatory Commissions, particularly the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, it is found that there are two acts, which still govern today – the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was put in place as an update to the Communications Act of 1934 and its aim was to encourage competition in the telecommunications industry.
A large portion of telecommunications policy is aimed at economic regulation of both interstate and international communication. This involves any and all communication by telephone, cable, satellite, wire, and radio. Telecommunications policy directs the management of resources that are owned by the government, such as the range that allows for wireless communications.
As is easily distinguishable when dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, the Internet plays a key role in all telecommunications today. The Internet in the United States was developed from ARPANET, which was a network sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defense in the 1960s. The Internet in the U.S. then provided the groundwork for the Internet across the world today. According to data reported by The World Bank in 2015, 97.5 percent of Americans were utilizing the Internet, putting the U.S. in fourth place for the amount of Internet use among 211 countries worldwide. The CIA reports the United States ranks number one in the world with regard to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), with 7,000.
In dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, understanding Internet use and how access is facilitated, it is important to note that the method of entry to the Internet is divided into two categories: dial-up and broadband. Initially, most homes accessed the Internet through dial-up, while businesses typically accessed via high-speed connections. In the years that have followed, the use of dial-up has declined dramatically as broadband access has gained favor. Both types of access utilize a modem, which transforms digital data to analog and then allows for the data to be transmitted.
Dial-up access is through a phone line and it is the slowest method for accessing the Internet, while broadband access offers a variety of speeds and technologies, all of which are faster than that of dial-up access. Internet access has become a primary and necessary tool in development and social progress, particularly across educational institutions, hospitals, government buildings and virtually every type of business. In dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, the top broadband Internet access providers, with the highest number of subscribers include Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and Verizon.
Due to the vital role of the Internet, programs such as the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program, the Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program, and the Community Connect Program have been established to bring the benefits of broadband Internet connections and other telecommunications services to disadvantaged areas across the United States. A Stimulus Bill was signed into law in 2009 to help provide funding for broadband grant and loan programs. A National Broadband Plan was developed in 2010 to increase the rate of Internet use across the nation. Most recently, the current presidential administration has introduced a proposal for $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments. These programs, laws, and plans are all to ensure that access to the Internet is within reach for all citizens of the United States and that the United States remains competitive in comparison to the rest of the world when it comes to Internet use, as Internet use is now regarded as a leading economic indicator.
Though the high demand for Internet access may make the Internet service provider market seem appealing to someone looking to start a business, the telecommunications industry is well known to have high barriers to entry. The organization and implementation of a network typically requires a significant financial investment and the high cost alone puts it out of reach for most. It is also difficult for a new telecommunications carrier to enter the market, because of government approval that is required to transmit voice, video and other data.
Aside from high barriers to entry, another distinguishing feature that is clear when dissecting the US telecommunications infrastructure is that the telecommunications industry remains fairly unaffected by any instability that may be present in the global economy. Nasdaq reports that political and economic instabilities in the international economy have in fact had minimal impact on the telecommunications sector.
With regard to investing in international telecommunications companies such as Global Call Forwarding, the telecom industry often offers one of the highest returns on investment in the United States. Most U.S. telecommunications companies generate most of their revenue from within the country, and there are also companies like Global Call Forwarding which function on a domestic and international scale. This makes the telecommunications industry less vulnerable when there is any type of instability in relation to foreign markets and foreign exchange rates. The United States economy is currently strong and stable, which is supporting consistent, high-yielding results from investing in the U.S. telecommunications industry and beyond.
In dissecting the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and examining what is required for further growth of the overall telecommunications industry, wireless network strength is front and center. Wireless networks function off of radio frequency, so airwaves are the most in-demand asset in the industry. As demand grows, the telecommunications sector aims to strengthen and progress.