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This paper describes a vision of what telecommunications laws’ central goals should be in coming decades, and what kind of legal instruments will serve those goals. The telecommunications law, I suggest, has been preoccupied with three projects: allocating rights, managing discrimination, and achieving various social goals, like indecency regulation. This paper argues that in the future the main point of the telecommunications law should be as an anti-discrimination regime, and that the main challenge for regulators will be getting the anti-discrimination rules right.

The view advanced here, while much popularized over the last decade, has deeper roots reaching back to the origins of telecommunications and common carriage itself. It views information networks as a form of public infrastructure that is most valuable as a general purpose input into other activities – a catalyst. This is at the center of what might be called the infrastructure view of network theory, and is at the heart of “innovations commons” theories. This single presumption affects the goals of communications policy. It makes it not the maximization of the value of the infrastructure for its own sake, but maximization of its value as a catalyst for other activities.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Communications Law | Law