Off the Hook

Kevin D. Werbach

Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

February 2010

Cornell Law Review, Vol. 95, p. 101

Communications networks are the basic infrastructure of the digital age. The future of news, business, interaction, entertainment, health care, education, and many other areas will be built on top of these platforms. Network infrastructure is the dividing line between the old physical economy of scarcity and the new information economy of abundance. The legal framework for networks will therefore shape not only the telecommunications businesses that provide connectivity, but also the applications, services, content, and user activities that depend on it.

Unfortunately, communications networks are entering a vast legal grey area. As telecommunications and media converge into the Internet, they are escaping from the regulatory frameworks of the Communications Act of 1934. In its effort to engage the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulatory agency responsible for communications, has backed its way into a dead-end statutory theory that provides insufficient basis for effective regulation.

The solution lies within the Communications Act itself, but not where the FCC and others have been looking. The essential requirement for a flourishing network infrastructure platform is open interconnection. By locating its authority to regulate the Internet in its obligations to oversee interconnection under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC could reorient communications law for the challenges of a new era.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 75

Keywords: Internet, FCC, Communications, Broadband, Telecommunications Act, Information Services, Ancillary Jurisdiction

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Date posted: April 1, 2009 ; Last revised: December 23, 2013

Suggested Citation

Werbach, Kevin D., Off the Hook (February 2010). Cornell Law Review, Vol. 95, p. 101. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1371222

Contact Information

Kevin D. Werbach (Contact Author)
Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania ( email )
3730 Walnut Street
Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States
215-898-1222 (Phone)

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