If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you’ve likely heard at least one term that is synonymous with “charter telecommunications” – and you might even recognize it. The term conjures up images of perhaps the most unprofitable, under-invested in, and under-sought-after of all industries: the telecommunications industry. As if to prove that’s not the only meaning of the word “charter”, the word itself has a variety of other, equally-uncongested meanings, most of which have to do with giving something or someone a second chance. In this post, we’ll explore the history of the U.S. telecommunications industry and its related terms, as well as what the future of this sector might look like.
Who Owns Charter Communications?
Charter Communications Inc., based in New York City, is the parent company of Charter and TWC. Before it was acquired by Spectrum in May 2016, Spectrum referred to it as a “private, non-profit,owler-ute-owned” company. While the sheer number of shareholders doesn’t tell the whole story, the majority of them – around 66% – are quite simply non-professionals.
What is the U.S. Telecommunications Industry?
Telecommunications is a rapidly growing industry in the United States, and its supply chain is increasingly being shaped by digital disruption. The U.S. telecommunications industry is an estimated $500 billion-plus industry with an estimated 80 million customers. Globally, the industry is worth $1.4 trillion with about 210 million customers. In the United States, the industry is fragmented and specialties such as cable, fiber optics, and wireless are only beginning to be integrated.
The U.S. Telecommunications Industry, Part 1: The Growth of Options
Telecommunications has a long and rich history in the United States. The first telephone lines were provided by American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1876. But it wasn’t until five years later, in 1885, that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the first rule-of-thirds tariffs that were intended to break the long-distance monopoly held by Western Electric and its ilk. This was followed by the first federal regulation of telephone service, which was implemented in 1912 and prohibited telephone companies from using the same phone booth in all regions of the country, regardless of whether or not it was used in those regions. A decade later, in 1925, the first state laws were passed to regulate telephone service in the U.S., and the first states to regulate telecommunication services followed in 1934.
The U.S. Telecommunications Industry, Part 2: The Rise of IP Networks
In the early 2000s, Internet service was similarly dominated by a small group of cable and DSL providers who collectively submitted to the FCC a challenge to the monopoly that AT&T and its ilk had established on the Internet. That challenge was rejected in 2004, but the FCC eventually followed up by approving the first set of rules-of-thirds that were intended to break the existing IP network under which cable and DSL providers operated. In the meantime, however, the Internet was also being rapidly transformed by new growth drivers such as online storage, online traffic management, and online distribution. As a result, the need for more flexible access to Internet services became increasingly obvious.
The U.S. Telecommunications Industry, Part 3: The Decline of Faced Telephones
By the mid-2010s, though, it became increasingly clear that the Internet had become far too transformational for cable and DSL providers to fully own and control. The result was a series of mergers and acquisitions including Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Suddenlink, which together became the largest telecommunications company in the country. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, the AT&T-Time Warner deal was completed in April 2016, which combined the largest cable and telecommunications provider in the U.S. With the acquisition, Americans had new options when it came to how they wanted to access the Internet.
What is the U.S. Telecommunications Industry, Part 4: Smartphone adoption and the Future of Wireless Telephony
Amidst all this change, it’s easy to forget that the U.S. telecommunications industry has always been based on a different kind of platform than its international counterparts – one rooted in face-to-face communication that still remains a vital part of much of our daily lives. Telecommunications networks in the U.S. remain mostly wired, meaning that most people still rely on physical lines for service. However, wireline providers are slowly diversifying into smart and digital solutions. The most notable of these is AT&S’s foray into the smartphone business with the AT&S Alltel smartphone.
Summing it up
The U.S. telecommunications industry is one of the most profitable in the world. While it’s true that the industry is in need of restructuring in order to meet customer demands, it’s also important to remember that the key to success in this industry is properly managing your business’s investment in the long term.