The Future of Internet Regulation
University of Colorado Law School
February 16, 2009
U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-02
Policymakers are at a precipice with regard to Internet regulation. The FCC's self-styled adjudication of the complaint that Comcast had violated the agency's Internet policy principles (requiring reasonable network management, among other things) made clear that the era of the non-regulation of the Internet is over. Equally clear is that the agency has yet to develop a model of regulation for a new era. As explained in this Article, the old models of regulation - reliance on command-and-control regulation and market forces subject only to antitrust law - are doomed to fail in a dynamic environment where cooperation is necessary to effective competition and continued Internet connectivity by a range of actors. Thus, this Article calls for a new model of regulation built around the concept of co-regulation - a self regulatory body subject to public agency oversight and backstop - as the best strategy for Internet regulation going forward.
This Article outlines a three-part strategy for the FCC - or any other agency authorized to oversee Internet providers - to oversee Internet connectivity disputes such as those involving network management practices by broadband providers or Internet backbone interconnection. First, it calls on the FCC to act as a norm entrepreneur, identifying areas where cooperation is essential and setting forth the broad terms that should govern that cooperation. Second, it explains how the FCC could use a model of co-regulation, with a private sector collaborative body operating under its oversight. Third, it recommends that the FCC should exercise ex post adjudicative authority (rather than ex ante rulemaking authority) - in tandem with the role played by the private body - to address breakdowns in cooperation and any departures from announced norms. This model, while of particular relevance to the future of Internet regulation, can be applied more broadly, thereby meriting the attention of policymakers and scholars interested in the future of the administrative state.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: network neutrality, network management, Internet policy, FCC, self-regulation, co-regulation
JEL Classification: K23
Date posted: February 19, 2009 ; Last revised: December 23, 2013