Communications in the United States

From Academic Kids

The primary regulator of communications in the United States is the Federal Communications Commission. It closely regulates all of the industries mentioned below with the exception of the Internet service provider industry.



Telephones - main lines in use: 178 million (1999)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 55.312 million (1997)

Telephone system:
domestic: a large system of fiber-optic cable, microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and domestic satellites carries every form of telephone traffic; a rapidly growing cellular system carries mobile telephone traffic throughout the country
international: 24 ocean cable systems in use; satellite earth stations - 61 Intelsat (45 Atlantic Ocean and 16 Pacific Ocean), 5 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region), and 4 Inmarsat (Pacific and Atlantic Ocean regions) (2000)

  • Note: The American telephone system was formerly operated by a single monopoly, AT&T, which was split up in 1981 into a long-distance telephone company and several local "Baby Bells."
  • At present, landline telephone service continues to be divided between "local" phone monopolies and several competing "long-distance" companies. Most states have several competing cellular phone networks, which often include generous long-distance rates in their plans. As of 2005, some of the Baby Bells are beginning to merge with long-distance phone companies. A small number of consumers are currently experimenting with Voice over Internet Protocol phone service.
  • Most local service to homes is provided through old-fashioned copper wire, although many of the Baby Bells are beginning to upgrade the so-called "last mile" to fiber optic.


Radio broadcast stations: AM commercial stations: 4,774; FM commercial stations: 6,218; FM educational stations: 2,533; FM translators & boosters: 3,890 (as of December 31, 2004, according to the Federal Communications Commission); shortwave 18 (1998)

Radios: 575 million (1997)


Television broadcast stations: 9,231 (of which 1,748 are full-power TV stations; 605 are class-A TV stations; 4,749 are TV translators; and 2,129 are other low-power TV stations) (as of December 31, 2004, according to the Federal Communications Commission); in addition, there are about 12,000 cable TV systems.

  • Most local commercial television stations are affiliated with the large national broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, UPN and The WB. There are also some television networks aimed at ethnic minorities, such as Spanish language networks Univisión and Telemundo. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), is the public broadcasting network, with over 300 non-profit affiliated stations across the United States. Besides the large broadcast networks (which are free for anyone with a TV and an antenna), there are also many networks available only with a subscription to cable or satellite television, like CNN.

Televisions: 219 million (1997)

See also: Television in the United States, List of United States broadcast television networks, List of United States cable and satellite television networks


Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7,600 (1999 est.)

  • Because of aggressive lobbying and the United States' strong libertarian traditions, the Internet service provider industry remains relatively unregulated in comparison to other communications industries.

Country code (Top level domain): US

  • For various historical reasons, the .US domain was never widely used outside of a small number of government agencies and school districts. Most companies (including small ones who should have been under .US) signed up for top level domains like .COM instead.
  • At present, Neustar now has control over the .US registry and is trying to promote the domain as an option for American-oriented Web sites.
See also : United States of America; Media in the United States

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