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telecommunications had a clear meaning

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    Before the emergence of the Internet and other data networks, telecommunications had a clear meaning: the telephone (and earlier the telegraph) was an application of technology that allowed people to communicate at a distance by voice (and earlier by encoded electronic signals), and telephone service was provided by the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Much of the U.S. network was owned and operated by American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T); the rest consisted of smaller independent companies, including some served by GTE.

    Then in the 1960s, facsimile and data services were overlaid on the PSTN, adding the ability to communicate documents and data at a distance—applications still considered telecommunications because they enabled new kinds of communication at a distance that were also carried over the PSTN. More recently, of course, communication at a distance
    include data transport, video conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging, Web browsing, and various forms of distributed collaboration, enabled by transmission media that have also expanded (from traditional copper wires) to include microwave, terrestrial wireless, satellite, hybrid fiber/coaxial cable, and broadband fiber transport.

    Today consumers think of telecommunications in terms of both products and services. Starting with the Carterphone decision by the Federal Communications Commission in 1968,1 it has become permissible and increasingly common for consumers to buy telecommunications applications or equipment as products as well as services. For example, a customer-owned and customer-installed WiFi local area network may be the first access link supporting a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, and a consumer may purchase a VoIP software package and install it on his or her personally owned and operated personal computer that connects to the Internet via an Internet service provider.

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