Communications in the United States

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 newspapers and the Internet service provider industry.

FCC New Logo
The FCC logo.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent government agency responsible for regulating the radio, television and phone industries. The FCC regulates all interstate communications, such as wire, satellite and cable, and international communications originating or terminating in the United States.


The logo for The New York Times, an American newspaper.

Newspapers declined in their influence and penetration into American households in the late 20th century. Most newspapers are local, having little circulation outside their particular metropolitan area. The closest thing to a national paper the U.S. has is USA Today. Other influential dailies include The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal which are sold in most U.S. cities.

The largest newspapers (by circulation) in the United States are USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.


The legal monopoly of the government-owned United States Postal Service has narrowed during the 20th and 21st centuries due to competition from companies such as UPS & FedEx, although still delivers the vast majority of US mail.


Telephone system:
General assessment: A large, technologically advanced, multipurpose communications 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: Country code - 1; 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).


Telephones - main lines in use: 141 million (2009)[1]

  • Most of the American telephone system was formerly operated by a single monopoly, AT&T, which was split up in 1984 into a long distance telephone company and seven regional "Baby Bells".
  • Landline telephone service continues to be divided between incumbent local exchange carriers and several competing long distance companies. 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 loop service to homes is provided through old-fashioned copper wire, although many of the providers have upgraded the so-called "last mile" to fiber optic.
  • Early in the 21st century the number of wire lines in use stopped growing and in some markets began to decline.[2]

Cellular/Wireless communication

Telephones - mobile cellular: 286 million (2009)[1]


Radio broadcast stations: AM: 4,669; FM commercial stations: 6,746; FM educational stations: 4,101; FM translators & boosters: 7,253; low-power FM stations: 1,678 (as of December 31, 2016, according to the Federal Communications Commission)

  • Most broadcast stations are controlled by large media conglomerates like iHeartMedia. There are also many small independent local stations. National Public Radio (NPR) is the public radio network.

Radios: 575 million (1997)


Television broadcast stations: 7,533 (of which 1,778 are full-power TV stations; 417 are class-A TV stations; 3,789 are TV translators; and 1,966 are other low-power TV stations) (as of December 31, 2016, according to the Federal Communications Commission); in addition, there are about 12,000 cable TV systems.

  • Most local commercial television stations are owned-and-operated by or affiliated with the large national broadcast networks such as the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), CBS, the Fox Broadcasting Company (Fox), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and The CW Television Network. Some television networks are aimed at ethnic minorities, including Spanish-language networks Univisión and Telemundo. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the country's main 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)


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 signed up for top level domains like .com instead.
  • NeuStar Inc. now has control over the .us registry and is trying to promote the domain as an option for American-oriented Web sites.

See also


  1. ^ a b CIA World Fact Book, August 2009
  2. ^ New York Times July 23 2008

.vi is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Allison Barber

Allison Barber, Ph.D. is the Chancellor of Western Governors University Indiana. She previously served as president of Sodenta, was an adjunct at Georgetown University, and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Internal Communications in the United States Department of Defense from 2003 to 2008.Barber serves on the board of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Techpoint, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Golf Ministries, and the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation. She was named Nonprofit Communicator of the Year by PR News, as well as a "Woman of Influence" by the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Area code 340

The area code (340) is the local telephone area code of U.S. Virgin Islands. The (340) area code was created during a split from the original (809) area code, which began permissive dialing on 1 June 1997 and ended 30 June 1998.

When in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one can dial the seven digits without needing to dial the area code. When calling to the U.S. Virgin Islands from anywhere in the United States or Canada dial 1(340) + seven digit phone number.

Beijing–Washington hotline

The Beijing–Washington hotline is a system that allows direct communication between the leaders of the United States and China. This hotline was established in November 2007, when China and the United States announced that they will set up a military hotline between Beijing and Washington D.C. to avoid misunderstanding during any moments of crisis in the Pacific.

Big Three television networks

The Big Three television networks are the three major traditional commercial broadcast television networks in the United States: the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), CBS (formerly known as the Columbia Broadcasting System) and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Until the 80's, the Big Three networks dominated U.S. television.

Call signs in the United States

Call signs in the United States are identifiers assigned to radio and television stations, which are issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and, in the case of most government stations, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). They consist of from 3 to 9 letters and digits, with their composition determined by a station's service category. By international agreement, all call signs starting with the letters K, N and W, as well as AAA-ALZ, are reserved exclusively for use in the United States.

AM, FM, TV and shortwave broadcasting stations can request their own call letters, as long as they are unique. The FCC policy covering broadcasting stations limits them to call signs that start with a "K" or a "W", with "K" call signs generally reserved for stations west of the Mississippi River, and "W" limited to stations east of the river. Amateur stations can receive call signs starting with all of the letters "A", "K", "N" and "W". Historically prefixes beginning with "A" have been exclusively assigned to U.S. Army stations and prefixes beginning with "N" to U.S. Navy stations.

Corto Maltese (DC Comics)

Corto Maltese is a fictional country appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. It was initially created by Frank Miller as an homage to Hugo Pratt’s long-running Corto Maltese series of comic books.

High-definition television in the United States

High-definition television (HDTV) in the United States was introduced in 1998 and has since become increasingly popular and dominant in the television market. Hundreds of HD channels are available in millions of homes and businesses both terrestrially and via subscription services such as satellite, cable and IPTV. HDTV has quickly become the standard, with about 85% of all TVs used being HD as of 2018. In the US, the 720p and 1080i formats are used for linear channels, while 1080p is available on a limited basis, mainly for pay-per-view and video on demand content.

History of mobile phones

The history of mobile phones covers mobile communication devices that connect wirelessly to the public switched telephone network.

While the transmission of speech by radio has a long history, the first devices that were wireless, mobile, and also capable of connecting to the standard telephone network are much more recent. The first such devices were barely portable compared to today's compact hand-held devices, and their use was clumsy.

Along with the process of developing a more portable technology, and a better interconnections system, drastic changes have taken place in both the networking of wireless communication and the prevalence of its use, with smartphones becoming common globally and a growing proportion of Internet access now done via mobile broadband.

Index of United States-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the United States of America.

Innovative Communications Corporation

Innovative Communications Corporation provides landline and mobile telephone, DSL and cable television services in the United States Virgin Islands. It also operates cable TV services in Sint Maarten, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the British Virgin Islands, and France. It's website is currently down.

Innovative also owned the Virgin Islands Daily News until 2008, when it was purchased by Times-Shamrock Communications.

KQLZ (defunct)

KQLZ (100.3 FM, "Pirate Radio") was an FM radio station in Los Angeles, California, United States that broadcast from March 17, 1989 to April 2, 1993. The station was launched with much attention from both radio and music industry trade publications.

KQLZ was owned by Westwood One, one of the largest producers and distributors of radio programming in the U.S. KQLZ was one of three radio stations the company purchased in 1989 in an attempt to expand its business to include radio station ownership. Westwood One paid $56 million in early 1989 for what was then KIQQ in Los Angeles, a soft adult contemporary station branded "K-Lite". In addition, the company hired noted New York City-based radio programmer and on-air personality Scott Shannon as the new station's program director and morning drive host. The station paid Shannon a then-industry-high yearly salary of $2.3 million.

After briefly registering successful ratings during its first six months, KQLZ soon garnered ratings too low to bill advertising rates high enough to sustain operating costs. Shannon was fired on February 13, 1991 and the station tried various format adjustments to help raise advertising revenue. In 1993, Westwood One sold KQLZ at a loss for only $40 million, $16 million less than what the company paid four years earlier. For these reasons, KQLZ is often cited by many in the radio industry as one of the most high-profile failures in the history of commercial radio in the United States.

Contrary to its brand management based moniker, the original KQLZ at 100.3 FM was not an actual pirate radio station. The station was licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, a regulatory agency that oversees telecommunications and radio frequency communications in the United States.

Leonard F. Fuller

Dr. Leonard F. Fuller (August 21, 1890 – April 23, 1987) was a noted American radio pioneer.

Fuller was born in Portland, Oregon, graduated from Portland Academy in 1908, and in 1912 graduated from Cornell University with an M.E. degree. He then joined the National Electric Signaling Company, Brooklyn, New York, switching after a few months to the Federal Telegraph Company at San Francisco, becoming its chief engineer in 1913.

From 1913 to 1919 he led development and manufacture of very large Poulsen arc transmitters (ranging in sizes from 200, 350, 500 and up to 1,000 kilowatts) for the Army and Navy, which were then installed in stations for trans-oceanic communications in the United States, France, Panama, Hawaii, and across the Pacific to the Philippines. He was a member of the National Research Council's antisubmarine group in World War I, and also continued his studies at Stanford University, receiving Stanford's first Ph.D. granted in electrical engineering in 1919.

From 1919 to 1923 Fuller manufactured radio receivers at the Colin B. Kennedy Company, San Francisco, which he founded, and performed private consulting in communications for electrical power companies. In 1921 and 1922, he designed and installed the world's first carrier current telephone system on power lines above 50,000 volts. From 1923-1926 he worked for General Electric in Schenectady and New York City on power company communication and radio receiver work, then in 1926 returned to San Francisco for GE. There he led new high voltage developments and the application of vacuum tubes for the west coast's electric power industry, including power-line communications between Hoover Dam and Los Angeles. He then returned to Federal Telegraph Company as its Executive Vice President and Chief Engineer, managing its plant at Palo Alto.

From 1930 to 1943 Fuller was professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, also serving as department chair. In this role he became friends with Ernest Lawrence, and constructed as a gift the Berkeley radiation laboratory's first large cyclotron. From 1946-1954, he was coordinator of contract research and acting professor of electrical engineering at Stanford.

Fuller held 24 patents, was a Fellow of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and a member of the American Physical Society, and received the first IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award, in 1919, for his contributions to long-distance radio communication.

List of multiple-system operators

A multiple-system operator (MSO) is an operator of multiple cable or direct-broadcast satellite television systems. A cable system in the United States, by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition, is a facility serving a single community or a distinct governmental entity, each of which has its own franchise agreement with the cable company. Though in the strictest sense any cable company that serves multiple communities is an MSO, the term today is usually reserved for companies that own a large number of cable systems, such as Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications, and Videotron in Canada; Altice USA, Charter Communications, Comcast and Cox Communications in the United States; or Virgin Media in the UK.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (formerly known as PolyGram Films and PolyGram Pictures or simply PFE) was a British-American film studio founded in 1980 which became a European competitor to Hollywood, but was eventually sold to Seagram Company Ltd. in 1998 and was folded in 1999. Among its most successful and well known films were An American Werewolf in London (1981), Flashdance (1983), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), The Usual Suspects (1995), and Notting Hill (1999).

In 2017, Universal Music Group established a film and television division, resurrecting the Polygram Entertainment name.

Radio jamming

Radio jamming is the deliberate jamming, blocking or interference with authorized wireless communications. In the United States, radio jamming devices (known as "jammers") are illegal and their use can result in large fines.In some cases jammers work by the transmission of radio signals that disrupt communications by decreasing the signal-to-noise ratio.The concept can be used in wireless data networks to disrupt information flow. It is a common form of censorship in totalitarian countries, in order to prevent foreign radio stations in border areas from reaching the country.Jamming is usually distinguished from interference that can occur due to device malfunctions or other accidental circumstances. Devices that simply cause interference are regulated under different regulations. Unintentional 'jamming' occurs when an operator transmits on a busy frequency without first checking whether it is in use, or without being able to hear stations using the frequency. Another form of unintentional jamming occurs when equipment accidentally radiates a signal, such as a cable television plant that accidentally emits on an aircraft emergency frequency.

Satellite television in the United States

Currently, there are two primary satellite television providers of subscription based service available to United States consumers: DirecTV and Dish Network, which have 21 and 14 million subscribers respectively.

Telecommunications in the United States Virgin Islands

Communications in the United States Virgin Islands

The following statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.

United Wireless Telegraph Company

The United Wireless Telegraph Company was the largest radio communications firm in the United States, from its late-1906 formation until its bankruptcy and takeover by Marconi interests in mid-1912. At the time of its demise, the company was operating around 70 land and 400 shipboard radiotelegraph installations — by far the most in the U.S. However, the firm's management had been substantially more interested in fraudulent stock promotion schemes than in ongoing operations or technical development. United Wireless' shutdown, following federal mail fraud prosecution, was hailed for eliminating one of the largest financial frauds of the period. However, its disappearance also left the U.S. radio industry largely under foreign influence, dominated by the British-controlled Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (American Marconi).

Cable ISP
Satellite ISP
Fiber ISP
Copper / DSL ISP
Defunct ISP
Stations and networks
Awards and events
Telecommunications in the Americas
Sovereign states
Network topology
and switching

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