FCC Regulation Summary

Title I and Title II within the FCC Telecommunications Act

All communications services that operate within the United States of America, “by wire or radio” are subject to the regulation by the Federal Communications Commission under the Telecommunications Act (sometimes also referred to as the Communications Act), and as amended.

Like many statutes, the Telecommunications Act is divided into several different segments, known as Titles.

Title I of the Communications Act applies to “information services,” which include IP-based voice services, broadband Internet services, and traditional SMS/MMS text messaging services. The FCC has not classified other new communications services, such as Facebook Messenger or Apple’s iMessage. Title II of the Act applies to “common carrier services,” which primarily includes traditional telephony voice communication services. Title I services are subject to substantially less regulation than Title II services.

The FCC has significant discretion in determining the scope of Title I and Title II, as well as the technology and services that fit into both categories. For example, for many years the FCC classified broadband Internet service as a Title II common carrier services. More recently, the FCC changed the classification for the those services to Title I. There has been a trend towards moving more services under the Title I provisions, particularly new emerging technology services.

Title I services may be offered by contract or EULA on an individual case basis. Carriers and service providers may block and/or filter traffic as they deem appropriate or can simply deny services altogether. Title II services, by contrast, must be offered to the public generally, and carriers can only block or filter traffic for network management and other reasonable purposes.

It is possible for voice services and messaging services to run on separated carriers or service providers that have no relationship with each other.