Prof. Daniel Lyons on Net Neutrality

Daniel LyonsIn the third installment of the Spring 2011 Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, Professor Daniel Lyons, Assistant Professor of Law at Boston College Law, came to speak today about net neutrality, discussing his upcoming paper, Net Neutrality and Nondiscrimination Norms in Telecommunications.

Professor Lyons argued that the new rules enacted by the FCC against Internet broadband providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, impose far greater nondiscrimination obligations on broadband providers than the law has ever imposed on telephone companies. Under the new rules enacted last December, a bright-line nondiscrimination rule was established: broadband providers may not block lawful internet content or applications, nor may they unreasonably discriminate in the carriage of such content over their networks. These rules, Professor Lyons argues, fly in the face of existing precedent. Existing rules for telephone companies and mail carriers do not allow different rates for “like” services, but do allow the sale of “premium” services, such as priority or certified mail. The new rules do not allow for such a system for broadband providers (although the rules do allow for different speeds for the end-user, just not a content-based system).

Professor Lyons argued that the net neutrality rules enacted jeopardize traffic management systems during periods of high congestion. Under the new rules, all traffic must be degraded equally. A more efficient system, he argues, would be to allow real-time applications, such as a video chat, priority over website loading. Or to utilize capitalist system of allowing providers, such as YouTube or Netflix, to pay for priority for their customers.

We thank Professor Lyons for visiting Washington and Lee to discuss his paper and ideas with the faculty.

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