Network Neutrality as Governance Seam

TechReg Chronicle, May 2024, pp1-14

U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 24-22

15 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2024

See all articles by Brett M. Frischmann

Brett M. Frischmann

Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law

Blake E. Reid

University of Colorado Law School; University of Colorado at Boulder - Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship

Date Written: May 01, 2024

Abstract

For the last two decades, commenters have focused on the complex political economy of net neutrality regulations and the swinging pendulum between Republican administrations inclined against imposing regulations and Democratic administrations inclined toward doing so. These debates have obscured the important core of net neutrality: the unique governance seam that the Internet’s protocols create between providers of network infrastructure and the applications that ride atop the Internet. This structural separation is a unique function of deliberate decisions made in the design of the Internet’s architecture, reinforced by social norms, economics, and ultimately by law. While policy conversations have shifted to focus on the power and intermediating function of large social media, search, and other platforms that operate on the application side of the seam, the Internet service providers (“ISPs”) that operate on the network side of the seam quietly remain an essential (path dependent) infrastructure for those platforms. 
This essay explores the nature of the seam and the core ongoing governance role it plays in Internet-enabled ecosystems. Network neutrality leverages friction-in-design of the Internet’s layered architecture to constrain the ability of network providers to exercise control over user activities, otherwise enabled by their privileged view of traffic flowing across the network. Understanding network neutrality as a governance seam not only adds clarity to the ongoing debates about network neutrality by revisiting and affirming its reinforcing purpose, but also reveals how friction-in-design of many other layered architectures and infrastructural systems can enable good governance and serve social goals.

Keywords: law, net neutrality, political economy, internet law, cyber infrastructure, infrastructure, friction, design, regulation

JEL Classification: H00, K00, K24

Suggested Citation

Frischmann, Brett M. and Reid, Blake Ellis, Network Neutrality as Governance Seam (May 01, 2024). TechReg Chronicle, May 2024, pp1-14, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 24-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4857269 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4857269

Brett M. Frischmann (Contact Author)

Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Blake Ellis Reid

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Boulder, CO
United States

University of Colorado at Boulder - Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship ( email )

Wolf Law Building
2450 Kittredge Loop Road
Boulder, CO
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
60
Abstract Views
853
Rank
669,715
PlumX Metrics