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History of Communications
Early TV Images: click for more information about these images

Most people know that if they watch television the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is part of their life due to its role in regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

What people may not recognize is the extent to which every area of their life is intertwined with the communications technologies the FCC has responsibility to regulate. For example, because almost all electrical and electronic equipment emits radio frequencies, FCC equipment authorization rules protect you when:

  • Your child plays with a radio-controlled airplane,

  • Your teenager upstairs sends their homework assignment to the printer downstairs via your new wireless home network,

  • Your toll fee is automatically deducted from the little plastic box attached to your windshield without having to stop at the booth,

  • You swipe your credit card at the gasoline pump,

  • You push the button on your garage door opener,

  • You heat your breakfast waffle in the microwave,

  • The cashier at the coffee shop rings up your favorite morning drink using an electronic cash register and inventory control system,

  • The local video store contacts its remote, central computer network to find out if you have enough bonus points to qualify for a free rental,

  • You lock your car with your remote entry system,

  • You activate your home alarm system before going to bed.


Photos of early mobile phones in a case and in a car - click for more information on early mobile phones And, these are just a few of the thousands of ways in which the vital work of the FCC helps facilitate both personal freedom and the public good. Perhaps no one example better illustrates the breadth and importance of the FCC’s role in modern America than September 11, 2001, when all Americans were reminded of the importance of reliable, easily available, and interoperable communications – both for emergency personnel responding to a tragedy and individuals checking on family and friends.

So, while the formal charge of Congress to the FCC can be summed up in less than 30 words – ensure that the American people have available, at reasonable costs and without discrimination, rapid, efficient, Nation- and world-wide communication services; whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable – the day-to-day reality may be that there is no more ubiquitous presence in the lives of most Americans than the FCC-regulated communications industries.

internet screens In recognition of the social and economic importance of communication technologies, the FCC has developed this History of Communications site with the purpose of reminding those who either visit or work in FCC headquarters of the rich technological heritage that underlies today’s vibrant communications marketplace. The FCC is pleased to have played a historical role in fostering the innovative atmosphere that enabled creative minds and led to technological breakthroughs. The FCC remains committed today to further fostering innovation in communications.

Our presentation on communications history is divided into 3 areas.

Through this website, the FCC hopes to inform and, possibly, inspire with a few reminders of the great achievements that made television, radio and the Internet as we know them today possible.


Additional Resources On FCC History:




last reviewed/updated on 11/21/05 


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