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Digital Crossroads: American Telecommunications Policy in the Internet Age [Hardcover]

by Jonathan E. Nuechterlein, Philip J. Weiser
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 4, 2005 0262140918 978-0262140911

Telecommunications policy profoundly affects the economy and our everyday lives. Yet accounts of important telecommunications issues tend to be either superficial (and inaccurate) or mired in jargon and technical esoterica. In Digital Crossroads, Jonathan Nuechterlein and Philip Weiser offer a clear, balanced, and accessible analysis of competition policy issues in the telecommunications industry. After giving a big picture overview of the field, they present sharply reasoned analyses of the major technological, economic, and legal developments confronting communications policymakers in the twenty-first century.Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, when Congress fundamentally reoriented the existing regulatory scheme, no book has cogently explained the intricacies of telecommunications competition policy in the Internet age for general readers, students, and practitioners alike. Digital Crossroads meets this need, focusing on the regulatory dimensions of competition in wireline and wireless telephone service; competition among rival platforms for broadband Internet service and video distribution; and the Internet's transformation of every aspect of the telecommunications industry, particularly through the emergence of "voice over Internet protocol" (VoIP). The authors explain not just the complicated legal issues governing the industry, but also the rapidly changing technological and economic context in which these issues arise. The book includes extensive endnotes and tables that cover relevant court decisions, FCC orders, and academic commentaries; a glossary of acronyms; a statutory addendum containing the most important provisions of federal telecommunications law; and two appendixes with information on more specialized topics. Supplementary materials for students are available at

Editorial Reviews


"A magnificent achievement. As someone who has been involved over the last four decades in what was once known as the 'telephone' business, I found *Digital Crossroads* an extraordinarily lucid description and explanation of the revolutionary significance of its transformation into 'telecommunications.' *Digital Crossroads* is not exactly light bedtime reading, but for anyone attempting to grasp these changes in our digital age, it is full of clear explanations and fair-minded assessments of the continuing regulatory issues they raise. This is a marvelous book, and well worth working through from cover to cover, as I have done."--Alfred E. Kahn, former Chairman of the New York Public Service Commission and Civil Aeronautics Board, and Advisor to President Carter on Inflation

" Digital Crossroads brings fresh clarity to a complex subject. It is thorough, comprehensive, and insightful, and will prove invaluable to anyone trying to navigate the tumultuous changes of the digital age." The Honorable Michael K. Powell

" Digital Crossroads is an essential read for anyone interested in the history-making changes occurring in communications, an industry at the heart of the American economy. It lucidly explains how and why public policy must change to accommodate the Internet"s revolutionary impact on the way people communicate. This book is a long-overdue voice of insight and reason in a field too often marked by simplistic, self-serving rhetoric." Jim Crowe , CEO, Level 3 Communications, Inc.

"*Digital Crossroads* brings fresh clarity to a complex subject. It is thorough, comprehensive, and insightful, and will prove invaluable to anyone trying to navigate the tumultuous changes of the digital age."--Michael K. Powell

"*Digital Crossroads* is an essential read for anyone interested in the history-making changes occurring in communications, an industry at the heart of the American economy. It lucidly explains how and why public policy must change to accommodate the Internet's revolutionary impact on the way people communicate. This book is a long-overdue voice of insight and reason in a field too often marked by simplistic, self-serving rhetoric."--Jim Crowe, CEO, Level 3 Communications, Inc.

About the Author

Jonathan E. Nuechterlein is chair of the telecommunications practice at the international law firm of WilmerHale. He served as Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission from 2000 to 2001 and as Assistant to the Solicitor General from 1996 to 2000.

Philip J. Weiser is Dean of the Law School, Thompson Professor of Law and Telecommunications, and Founder and Executive Director of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Boulder. From 2009 to 2010, he was Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and from 2010 to 2011, he was a Senior Adviser on Technology and Innovation at the National Economic Council in the White House under President Obama.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 702 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262140918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262140911
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telecommunications for non-specialists August 29, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In Digital Crossroads, the authors, both lawyers with experience in telecommunications, offer a readable guide to the complex regulatory policies shaping electronic communication. Starting with the economic principles that have guided government agencies through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, they give a basic history of the development of wireline communication, primarily through telephone, and explain how the advent of wireless technology via radio, television, cell phones, and the Internet have affected policies and practices. Although it is not easy reading, both the technical and legal aspects of communication are made clear even to a reader who is neither a lawyer nor an engineer. The policies discussed in this book will affect every citizen who cares about obtaining and communicating information to individuals and groups. Understanding the background given here, will help individuals follow the current legislative news as Congress revises the 1996 Telecommunications Act. This is a book many community groups and activists should read and discuss.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telecom Law for the Layman, Clearly Explained March 25, 2005
If you need a current understanding of the law and politics around telecommunications today, this is THE book you need. While long, it is clearly written, concise, lucid, and technically excellent. Even with extensive experience in this domain, I found this book to be the most cogent and readable summary of the issues today, and I learned a lot in the process.

Jonathan Nuechterlein and Philip Weiser are practicing lawyers that have taken the time to learn enough of the engineering and technology of the telecommunications world to be able to explain the intersection of law, politics, and technology to anyone with an interest in the topic. Their goal with this book is to lay a foundation for revisions to US (and global) laws as they apply to voice, data, and video communications distribution networks. While they do not have the answers yet (no one does), they lucidly and often humorously explain why today's laws and regulations are increasingly obsolete. In the process, the authors describe how technology and software are interacting to force the government to abolish the regulatory divisions between the voice and video worlds.

Nuechterlein and Weiser outline a four layer model for communications policies of the future, dividing the domain into 1) the physical infrastructure layer, 2) a logical connectivity layer, 3) an applications layer delivering voice, video, and data services to end users, and 4) a content layer that addresses publicly visible content in any format. They illustrate how this model can be used to devise laws that can effectively achieve the goals of government, and, more importantly, how the model can demonstrate the weaknesses of existing and proposed laws and rules.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Digital Crossroads is that rare combination, a comprehensive and accurate -- but well-written and accessible -- presentation of the state of the technology, economics, and law driving today's complex telecommunications industry. I used it in my Albany Law School seminar on Telecommunications Law for the 21st Century, and students found it highly accessible--especially the technology chapters. The book is a real accomplishment: comprehensive, thoughtful, and forward-looking, without being swept away by the latest gimmick off the shelf. It is also an extremely well written and organized book, clear and authoritative. In addition, for either the practitioner or academic, the inclusion of relevant sections of the 1996 Telecommunications Act adds value and convenience. Making coherent sense of this industry, its history and trajectory, is a daunting challenge and one the authors met, apparently without flinching.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Summary of a Fast Moving Target September 13, 2009
A long time ago (eons in terms of telecommunication regulation) I worked as a lawyer regulating telephone companies. I am now a law professor and and have taught telecommunications law on and off over the years. The greatest challenge for the course was finding a text that summarized the policy and legal issues in a field that moves literally at light speed.

Digital Crossroads is such a book. It starts with a brief history of telephone communications, and proceeds to summarize the issues raised by regulation of traditional telephone service both historically and under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It then introduces the internet and discusses the challenges that raises both to regulation of the internet itself and the regulaton of telephony that it had previously introduced. It proceeds to introduce wireless communication and the convergence of broadcasting snd entertainment and discuss the impact of these topics in a similar fashion.

The strength of the book is that it organizes the material within each chapter in terms of economic and regulatory themes that repeat as different technologies and media are discussed, and that are the heart of debate about over any aspect of telecommunications regulation. Hence, it is relevent even though the industry has moved even since the book was published just a few years ago. (No book on this topic will ever be truly "up-to-date".) It is compehensive in its discussion of both economics, policy, law and regulation. The book is bit more supportive of simply not regulating several technologies/services than I am, but presents arguments both for and ageinst regulation even when it suggests that any regulation may be unwise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read
Very informative discussion of the communications networks and policy issues faced as we transition. Read more
Published 5 months ago by GWG
2.0 out of 5 stars dry
So very dry... I fell a sleep more than once reading this book for research for a paper in grad school. Lots of information. Read more
Published 10 months ago by B. Barth
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible and boring. Overly verbose and unclear.
The author regularly refers to this book in this book. Example: Something something CLECs, which we've discussed in chapter 2, something something terminating access monopoly,... Read more
Published 14 months ago by stonebit
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great but not horrible
This was assigned reading for a graduate class in economics (antitrust economics) and was not my favorite reading. I love reading textbooks, but this book was difficult. Read more
Published on March 20, 2012 by Emily Graves
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good overview of telecommunications policy
This is a great overview of American Telecommunications Policy. I wish there was a such a book for each area of federal policy!
Published on December 23, 2011 by Michael Plasmeier
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - even if its a for a class
This book is very good. It covers everything from the Baby bells, Natural Monopolies to Digital Rights Management

I thought the section on convergence was especially... Read more
Published on September 23, 2010 by Nathan A. Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars ok book for a summe class
the book had been written in,advertised as almost new, but nice book got it for a summer class
Published on August 25, 2008 by Rita
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
I had to read this for a graduate class. It is written in a conversational manner. It does explain the topics in reasonable voice. Overall not a bad purchase. Read more
Published on March 2, 2006 by Christina Conte
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