Communications Law: Internet and Telephony
New developments in Internet and other technology enable new forms of innovation, content production and political participation that have the potential to significantly transform our economy, society and democratic system. This transformation will not happen automatically. Technical, legal and economic choices will affect whether the Internet can realize its potential or not. Communications law - the law that governs both the physical infrastructures for communications services such as cable and telephone networks as well as the communication services which are provided over these infrastructures - has become one of the most important arenas in which choices affecting the future of the information society are made. The debates over network neutrality (whether network providers should be able to restrict the applications and content that their Internet service customers can access over the network) or the right ways to foster broadband deployment are examples of this trend. At the same time, the Internet's ability to support a variety of different communications services such as telephony, information services or video over the same physical network infrastructure challenges the existing communications law, which is based on the assumption that different physical infrastructures offer different communications services. What are the features of the Internet that are at the core of its economic, social, cultural and political potential? What can regulators and legislators do to allow the Internet to realize this potential? And how can they allow applications like Internet telephony and traditional telephony to coexist without giving one an unfair advantage over the other? The course will address how current law deals with these questions, but also explore what regulators and legislators may do to better deal with the challenges posed by the Internet. The course is mostly focused on the US, but highlights developments elsewhere where appropriate. Students may take Communications Law: Internet and Telephony and Communications Law: Broadcast and Cable Television in any order (neither is a prerequisite for the other). There are no prerequisites for this course. No technical background is required.