Common Carrier

Definition of Common Carrier

A Common Carrier is a telecommunications or transportation service provider that offers its services to the general public under a legal obligation to do so. These providers must charge reasonable and non-discriminatory rates to their customers. Examples of common carriers include telephone companies, internet service providers, and public transportation systems.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Common Carrier” is: /ˈkɒmən ˈkæriər/ Here’s a breakdown of each word:Common: /ˈkɒmən/Carrier: /ˈkæriər/

Key Takeaways

  1. A common carrier is a business entity that offers transportation or communication services to the public, often for a fee and under government regulation.
  2. Common carriers have a responsibility to treat their customers without discrimination and ensure that their services are available at reasonable rates and without undue preference or prejudice.
  3. Examples of common carriers include freight or passenger transport companies, internet service providers, and utilities such as power and water suppliers.

Importance of Common Carrier

The term “Common Carrier” is important in the technology sector because it refers to companies or entities that provide essential communication and transportation services to the general public or other businesses, while simultaneously adhering to non-discriminatory practices.

This means they are obligated to serve all customers without prejudice and under equal terms or conditions.

Common carriers play a crucial role in ensuring accessibility, affordability, and fair competition in telecommunication, internet service provision, and transportation spheres.

Regulations governing these carriers attempt to strike a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring a level playing field, thus making the concept of the common carrier vital for the overall development and well-being of both individuals and businesses in the modern, interconnected world.


The purpose of a common carrier is to provide essential communication services to the public without discrimination, ensuring that these services are accessible to everyone at a reasonable price. Common carriers act as intermediaries that facilitate communication, typically through the provision of network infrastructure or transportation services. They are bound by law and regulatory requirements to maintain fairness, non-discrimination, and reliability in their operations.

By offering essential services to the public, common carriers promote economic development, social connectivity, and a level playing field for businesses, industries, and individual users alike. Various sectors, such as telecommunications, railroads, airlines, and courier services, employ common carriers to ensure the seamless movement of goods, services, and information across the globe. In the telecommunications industry, common carriers hold a significant role in enabling information exchange and connectivity, thus serving as the backbone of the digital age.

These carriers provide the essential infrastructure for voice, data, and internet connections, allowing users to access and share information across vast distances. By offering services that include phone lines, cellular networks, fiber-optic cables, and internet service providers (ISPs), common carriers foster innovation, collaboration, and global communication. Furthermore, the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern common carriers ensure that these services are rendered transparently, fairly, and without undue prejudice to any particular user or segment of the market.

This focus on fairness and equal access benefits consumers and businesses alike, making common carrier networks indispensable to modern society.

Examples of Common Carrier

Telecommunications Companies: A prime example of common carriers in the real world is telecommunications companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. These providers offer essential communication services like telephone and internet services to the public and are regulated by government agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. As common carriers, they are prohibited from discriminating among its customers or interfering with the content of the communication they facilitate.

Postal Services: Postal services like United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and UPS function as common carriers that transport and deliver mail and packages to anyone, anywhere within their service areas, without discrimination based on the content of the items being sent. They provide their services at a reasonable price to all users and are subject to certain regulations to ensure equal and fair access to their services.

Public Transportation: Public transportation systems, such as buses, subways, and trains, operate as common carriers by providing transportation services to the general public. They must offer their services to everyone without discrimination and are regulated by government agencies to ensure safety, accessibility, and affordability. For example, Amtrak, a government-owned corporation, provides intercity passenger train services throughout the United States and functions as a common carrier under federal regulations.

Common Carrier FAQ

What is a Common Carrier?

A common carrier is a business or organization that transports people, goods, or services for a fee and is available to the general public. Common carriers include buses, trains, cargo ships, and airlines.

What is the difference between a common carrier and a private carrier?

A common carrier is a transportation provider that offers its services to the general public, while a private carrier only transports goods or passengers on a selective, contract basis. Unlike common carriers, private carriers have the flexibility to choose their clients and are not obligated to transport all goods or passengers presented to them.

What are the responsibilities of a common carrier?

A common carrier has a responsibility to provide timely and safe transportation of goods and passengers. They must also provide their services at a reasonable rate, treat all customers fairly, and maintain safe operating conditions to ensure the security of the cargo and passengers they transport.

What regulations do common carriers have to follow?

Common carriers are subject to various local, national, and international regulations to ensure safety, fair pricing, and proper conduct. These regulations may include safety standards, transportation of hazardous materials, documentation, and insurance requirements. Compliance with these regulations helps maintain a safe and fair transportation system for the public.

How does one become a common carrier?

To become a common carrier, an individual or organization must meet certain requirements and obtain the necessary permits and licenses from the appropriate authorities. This can include obtaining a federal, state, or local operating authority, acquiring insurance coverage, and demonstrating compliance with safety and operational regulations.

Related Technology Terms

  • Telecommunications Act
  • Network Neutrality
  • Public Utility
  • Universal Service
  • Regulatory Authority

Sources for More Information


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