The New Scarcity: A First Amendment Framework for Regulating Access to Digital Platforms

65 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Sep 2012

John Blevins

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Date Written: August 22, 2011

Abstract

Digital media platforms such as broadband networks and search engines are increasingly viewed as 'gatekeepers' that enjoy disproportionate influence over modern speech. In response, policymakers have proposed - and in some instances adopted - regulations to ensure nondiscriminatory access to these platforms. This article examines the intersection of these new access regulations with the First Amendment. The literature continues to analyze these questions through the lens of traditional media technologies. Digital networks, however, differ from these prior technologies in critical, qualitative ways. First Amendment analysis of access regulations must therefore be updated to reflect these technological differences. Specifically, it must recognize the layered infrastructure of digital networks, and the significant differences between network-layer platforms and application-layer platforms. Accordingly, I propose a new conceptual framework - 'infrastructural scarcity' - for analyzing First Amendment challenges of access regulations. My proposed framework better reflects modern technological realities, and synthesizes the competing theoretical approaches of the 'positive rights' and 'negative rights' literature in new ways.

Keywords: broadband, First Amendment, network neutrality, FCC, search neutrality, media access

Suggested Citation

Blevins, John, The New Scarcity: A First Amendment Framework for Regulating Access to Digital Platforms (August 22, 2011). 79 Tennessee Law Review 353 (2012); Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Research Paper No. 2012-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2115310

John F. Blevins (Contact Author)

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law ( email )

7214 St. Charles Ave., Box 901
Campus Box 901
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.loyno.edu/faculty-staf/john-f-blevins

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