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Saturday, September 28 • 4:10pm - 4:45pm
Platform Models for Sustainable Internet Regulation

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A substantial challenge in developing regulatory theory to support communications policy is the highly dynamic technology and business practices in the evolving Internet. Traditional regulatory theory in this sector relied on simple models of technology, such as copper pairs carrying telephone service to homes. Innovative uses of that copper pair (e.g., DSL) and advanced technologies such as HFC, fiber and mobile, have led to definitional confusion, litigation, and a dauntingly complex, less understood, networked ecosystem. The impending convergence of virtually all communications services using the Internet Protocol (IP), both in public and private networks, renders the complexity and ambiguity even worse.

The goal of this research is to derive models of technology and industry practice that are general enough to survive current rates of innovation and evolution, and stable enough to support construction of regulatory theory that can remain relevant through this continuing evolution of our communications infrastructure. We will describe two models, an Interconnection Model and a Platform Layer Model, and describe technology and business practices that underpin these models. Part of this description will include anecdotal evidence of the shifts in power among classes of ISP, e.g., access, content, backbone, etc.

We will use three case studies to illustrate how these models can provide effective and consistent guidance to policy debates. In the process we will identify metrics that could bridge between technology and regulation, such as ways to analyze market power based on the best available data on interconnection patterns.

Our first case study is an imminent, economically inevitable innovation about to shatter our already cracking models of communication regulation: the "converged IP network", often naively conflated with the public Internet. While the public Internet is one of many services that can be delivered over IP, many other "specialized services" including some VoIP services may use Internet protocols but not public Internet transport. The FCC introduced the term "specialized services" with no clear definition of what it is much less how or if it should be regulated. Our Platform Layer model relies on terminology and theory from the economics literature to show how such a model can inform policy discourse on this innovation.

Our second case study is interconnection, particularly the complexity associated with proliferating CDNs and Internet exchanges (IXes). Although the FCC has recently focused on broadband access issues, interconnection points among ISPs have become another opportunity for discriminatory behavior in terms of either performance or pricing. The emergence and influence of the Content Distribution Network industry, which now sources most traffic consumed by users, increases the complexity of both routing and the economics of interconnection. Several peering disputes involving CDNs have grown publicly contentious, including assertions that ISPs deliberately allow paths to become congested in order to improve their position when negotiating interconnection agreements. Our interconnection model captures the necessary complexity of today's ecosytem more faithfully than those appearing in the literature. We also show a useful duality between this model and the recursive layering model.

Our third case study is a futuristic scenario under active research today -- an entirely new Internet architecture that more naturally supports emerging patterns of communication. Information-Centric Networking is an architecture research area gaining momentum around the world for its potential to improve efficiency, scalability, robustness, and capabilities in challenging communication environments. The regulatory challenge of ICNs is that they embed content management into the routers of the network layer, thus further blending content and transport. We will use this case study to test the generality of our models, and offer some initial thoughts on the regulatory implications were ICNs to be deployed by facilities owners.

Saturday September 28, 2013 4:10pm - 4:45pm
GMUSL Room 120

Attendees (16)