Technology Neutrality in Internet, Telecoms and Data Protection Regulation

Computer and Telecommunications L. Rev. (2014), Forthcoming

6 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2014

See all articles by Winston Maxwell

Winston Maxwell

Telecom Paris - Institut Polytechnique de Paris

Marc Bourreau

Telecom ParisTech

Date Written: November 23, 2014


The term "technology neutrality" (or "technological neutrality") is a principle of good regulation in Internet, telecoms and data protection regulation. Yet the term has several distinct meanings:

• Meaning 1: technology neutrality means that technical standards designed to limit negative externalities (eg. radio interference, pollution, safety) should describe the result to be achieved, but should leave companies free to adopt whatever technology is most appropriate to achieve the result

• Meaning 2: technology neutrality means that the same regulatory principles should apply regardless of the technology used. Regulations should not be drafted in technological silos.

• Meaning 3: technology neutrality means that regulators should refrain from using regulations as a means to push the market toward a particular structure that the regulators consider optimal. In a highly dynamic market, regulators should not try to pick technological winners.

We examine each meaning and its application to cases of electronic communications, Internet and data protection regulation, attempting to draw lessons on when technological neutrality yields efficient results. We also distinguish the term "technological neutrality" from "platform neutrality," and comment on the risks of applying platform neutrality to search engines, in particular because of the risk to innovation.

Keywords: technology neutrality, technological neutrality, rules versus standards, platform neutrality, spectrum, regulation, Internet, data protection

JEL Classification: K23

Suggested Citation

Maxwell, Winston and Bourreau, Marc, Technology Neutrality in Internet, Telecoms and Data Protection Regulation (November 23, 2014). Computer and Telecommunications L. Rev. (2014), Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Winston Maxwell (Contact Author)

Telecom Paris - Institut Polytechnique de Paris ( email )

19 place Marguerite Perey
Palaiseau, 91120


Marc Bourreau

Telecom ParisTech ( email )

46, rue Barrault
Paris Cedex 13, F-75634

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