In February, Congress overwhelmingly passed and President Clinton quickly signed into law the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (called TA96 in this report). The Act amends the Communications Act of 1934. Under the philosophy of the 1934 Act, telecommunications was considered a "natural monopoly" that needed to be regulated. The 1934 Act created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do the regulating at the federal level, leaving state regulation to State regulatory commissions.
TA96 has a different philosophy. With one exception - the local exchange plant - TA96 assumes that telecommunications is no longer a natural monopoly. The local exchange plant consists of the wires that run from phones to the switches that serve them, plus the switches themselves. TA96 makes a further philosophical leap. It assumes that even the local exchanges can be opened to competition. Its owners need only to lease its facilities to rivals. TA96 pays considerable attention to the details of how the leasing is done. However, the complete spelling out of the details is the job of the FCC and State commissions.