Happy Birthday Telecom Act of 1996

20 Years of Competition, Innovation and the Future

By Chip Pickering

Before I became a Member of Congress, I had the privilege of working as a staffer for Senator Trent Lott in the U.S. Senate. That’s where I learned the legislative process and about the importance of bipartisanship and cooperation.

One of the pieces of legislation I was fortunate to work on, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, celebrates its 20th birthday today.

Here are three reasons that milestone is significant:

First, the Telecom Act underscores the idea that innovation and competition applies to all businesses, all start-ups and across party lines. The Act inspired a bipartisan commitment, and united Members from both parties in a rare political moment.

Second, I want to point out the incredible benefits of the legislation to the economy and society — from the creation of new companies, new technologies and entire new industries to the technology solutions that have risen from the Act to help share information and reshape our world. If you’ve ever used an ATM, an app for an on-demand service, or high-speed wireless connection on your home computer, you’ve seen firsthand the innovation unleashed by the ’96 Act.

Third, no other legislation truly exemplifies America’s bridge to the 21st Century quite like the 1996 Telecom Act. Rapid deployment of new networks helped strengthen the connection between the United States and the rest of the world, enabling people from all communities, and all backgrounds to create and share information at an unprecedented level.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was a historic bipartisan achievement. It was a competition constitution for networks and communication services that continues to enable innovation and investment to flourish today. From wiring of our schools and libraries, to the networking innovations that have reshaped our lives, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 continues to drive American innovation and economic growth.

As I reflect back and think about the members, staffers, businesses, and constituents who contributed ideas to the ’96 Act, I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.

Those leaders include President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, Senator Trent Lott, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Fritz Hollings, Senator Larry Pressler, Senator Ed Markey, Rep. Tom Bliley Jr., Rep. John Dingell, Rep Jack Fields and many others.

I also want to thank the current House and Senate leadership and the FCC who continue to honor the bipartisan principles of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in their work.

Happy birthday to a law, and an industry, that’s continued to build on what was started 20 years ago today.