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55 Federal Communications Law Journal 167 (2003)


The FCC and the computer industry have learned much in the 35 years since the agency first began to regulate computer networks. Safeguards were imposed on common carriers for the benefit of the networks. This Article examines the so-called Computer Inquiries and how they have repeatedly re-examined and redefined the nature of the regulatory treatment of computer networks over communications networks. The Author reviews Computer I, in which the FCC first attempted to divide the world technologically between computers that ran communications networks ("pure communications") and computers at the end of telephone lines with which people interacted ("pure data processing"). In Computer II, the FCC reclassified the computer world on the basis of the services provided-basic or enhanced. The FCC's third and final attack on the issue, Computer III, retained the conceptual framework, but redetermined how the policy objectives would be implemented. The Author concludes that the actions taken by the FCC may not have "invented the Internet," but they certainly contributed to its success.