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Five Turning Points in Government Telecom History

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To celebrate 50 years of Hughes innovation and leadership this year, we've been posting a “5 for 50” series reflecting on major milestones over the last five decades. Here are five major turning points looking back on the history of government telecommunications.

  • 1962 – Introducing the Hotline. President John F. Kennedy has trouble making a phone call during the Cuban Missile Crisis. To prevent similar troubles in the future, a direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin is established – and referred to as the “Hotline.”

  • 1970s – Private Phone Networks for Fed Workers. The General Services Administration (GSA) introduces competition to the Federal Telephone Service (FTS) network by awarding routes to “other common carriers” such as Western Union, MCI, USTS and others. The FTS networks allow government workers to place “private” long-distance calls, rather than using the commercial toll networks.

  • 1984 – The Ma Bell Breakup. The Justice Department’s consent decree forces a breakup of the mother of all telephone operating systems, AT&T’s “Ma Bell,” and establishes seven new Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) or “Baby Bells.”

  • 1988 – Making the Switch. As the FTS network ages and becomes outdated, GSA designs FTS-2000 to create a replacement network – a state-of-the-art, high-tech, all-digital system that uses computerized switching. The two-vendor services contract enables agencies to purchase a variety of long-distance voice and data services.

  • 1996 – Welcome to the Web. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is the first significant overhaul of telecommunications law in more than 60 years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. It’s also the first time that the Internet is included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment. The goal for this new law is to let any communications business compete in any market, opening up an array of opportunities, including local and long distance, cable programming, and video services.

Check out my other 5 for 50 Lists here.