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 gray area. As telecommunications and media converge into the Internet, they are escaping from the regulatory framework of the Communications Act of 1934. In its efforts 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.
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