What does the FCC regulate?

According to its website, "[t]he Federal Communications Commission [FCC] regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable..." If you think that sounds like a lot to regulate, you're right.

In short, the FCC exists to make sure that telecommunications technologies are used safely and fairly. Here is just a sampling of some of the places and ways that FCC regulates communications:

  • Radio: The FCC grants (and revokes) broadcast licenses to radio stations. It also regulates products that use the radio frequency spectrum, which includes everything from fast-food drive-through headsets to remote-controlled toy cars.
  • Television: Like with radio, the FCC licenses television stations. It also sets the rules on obscenity, what is allowed and disallowed and when. The 2009 switch from analog to all-digital TV signals (at least for full-power TV stations) was an FCC action that gave consumers more options, offered a better picture, and freed up analog frequencies for emergency responders.
  • Telephone: The FCC has established Truth-In-Billing rules for telephone companies to make sure consumers know what they're paying for. The FCC also regulates 9-1-1 service, including establishing rules for and encouraging the growth of 9-1-1 service for wireless phones, text telephone devices (TTYs), and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
  • Advertising: The FCC regulates and limits the ways in which companies can use telecommunications to contact consumers, including limiting automated calling systems (robocalls) and expectations from phone solicitors. The FCC teamed up with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create the national Do-Not-Call list.
  • Accessibility: Through continued growth and regulation, the FCC also makes sure that telecommunications technologies are available to underserved populations, such as people with disabilities, rural communities, the poor, and small businesses.

In addition to regulation, the FCC, through grants and partnerships, also encourages

  • Online privacy and safety
  • Growth and innovation in wireless technology
  • Wireless technology in the classroom
  • Net neutrality