Speaking of Point-Counterpoint

More on “layers” regulation (followup to this post): How to move the IP era out of neutral

While May’s article questions layers-informed thinking, the framework’s guiding principle seeks to fit our laws and regulations to the ways that the Internet is constructed and operated, rather than the other way around. Moreover, MCI’s layers proposal looks to the existence of significant market power as the chief rationale for economic regulation. Conversely, the presence of competition in a particular network layer means that no such regulation is warranted.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation shares many of the goals of the layers approach–such as eliminating vertical silos, relying on antitrust theory for economic regulation, and removing unnecessary legal and regulatory requirements. Nonetheless, May’s reasons for opposing MCI’s layers proposal fail to pass muster.

For starters, he ignores the fact that network layering is a fundamental organizing principle for all data networks, one that has been used by engineers for decades. As a result, the Internet has been built and operated with layers-based concepts that likely will not change appreciably over time. Moreover, the layers approach should be used as a flexible, dynamic conceptual tool. It is not intended to mirror the current straightjacket of the Communications Act’s vertical silos.

[…] There is more that unites than separates the Progress & Freedom Foundation and MCI visions of the coming Internet-centric economy. We, however, look to the network layers framework as a way to make our communications laws finally begin to match the incredible creativity and competitive spirit at the heart of the Internet. May’s stated concerns aside, the layers framework represents the best opportunity to topple the artificial silos that have constrained the digital marketplace for too long.