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Debates over Internet policy tend to be framed by the way the Internet existed in the mid-1990s, when the Internet first became a mass-market phenomenon. At the risk of oversimplifying, the Internet was initially used by academics and tech-savvy early adopters to send email and browse the web over a personal computer connected to a telephone line via networks interconnected through in a limited way. Since then, the Internet has become much larger and more diverse in terms of users, applications, technologies, and business relationships. More recently, Internet growth has begun to slow both in terms of the number of connections and overall traffic. The major exception to this pattern is wireless, which has exhibited accelerating growth and has begun consistently to provide speeds in excess of 10 Mbps. Moreover, the emergence of the smartphone provides the most recent example of how changes in collateral technologies can play a key role in transforming network usage. These changes underscore that the Internet may be undergoing a paradigm shift and that generalizing from the past serves little purpose when circumstances have materially changed. Furthermore, policymakers should avoid regulating based on any particular vision of the technological future. Instead, they should craft policies designed to preserve room for experimentation with different approaches, which will require tolerating a significant degree of nonuniformity, uncertainty, and disruption.


Telecommunications law and policy, wireless transmission, Federal Communications Commission, FCC, broadband technology, competition, internet access, mobile devices

Publication Title

I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society

Publication Citation

9 I/S: J. L. & Pol'y for the Info. Soc. 367 (2014)