Class 6 Lecture Materials

Here are the video materials for Class 6 and the Certification.  There is no separate lecture.  “Network neutrality” is a rallying cry of open Internet advocates.    Many commentators believe it is essential to enshrine net neutrality into law because otherwise large “edge” providers, such as Amazon and Netflix, could use their clout to stifle creativity and innovation.

The legal problem raised by this claim is whether any existing regulatory framework would give the government authority to impose such rules on ISPs.  In the U.S., the FCC has been attempting to assert such authority for years, and has finally succeeded in crafting rules that have been upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Edited versions of those rules and of the D.C. Circuit’s opinion comprise your readings for this week.  As you can see, the legal question about the FCC’s rules turns largely on whether the FCC properly exercised its authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1976 to enact regulations over broadband Internet service — a kind of service that did not exist in 1976.

There are also significant policy and economic questions underlying the FCC’s rules.  The two judges in the majority on D.C. Circuit, as you will see when you read the opinion, evaluated these choices under a broad reasonableness standard.  The dissenting judge thought the FCC’s policy choices were likely to harm competition.

The first two videos below describe the basic principle of net neutrality.  The John Oliver video was created in an earlier phase of this drama, when it appeared that the FCC would adopt anti-net neutrality rules.  The next video discusses comments by President Obama that prompted an abrupt change in policy direction by the FCC, an event that caused some conservative critics to suggest the President had improperly impinged on the Commission’s independence.  The final video is from FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who dissented from the Open Internet Order.

Notwithstanding the assumption in many circles that net neutrality is an unvarnished good, this week’s materials show that the political, policy, economic, and legal issues are complicated.  A petition for en banc review  concerning the D.C. Circuit’s opinion on the Open Internet Order was denied in May , 2017. Meanwhile, Ajit Pai was appointed by President Trump to head the FCC and Pai has announced that the FCC will roll back its net neutrality rules.  The debate over this enormously important piece of Internet governance continues.


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