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Sunday, September 27 • 10:05am - 10:40am
Network Neutrality: An Empirical Approach to Legal Interoperability

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The Internet is grounded on an open and interoperable architecture, giving rise to a quintessentially transnational environment. This global network of networks is, however, in natural tension with an international legal system based on mutually excluding legal frameworks, which have the potential to fragment the Internet, creating separated national intranets and conflicting cyberspaces. It seems important, therefore, to encourage the development of rules that can be used across jurisdictions, thus fostering the compatibility of the legal systems penetrated by the Internet and the internet economy. Promoting a “legal interoperable” environment seems indeed an instrumental step to achieving a better-functioning Internet ecosystem, in which new technologies can spur, and in which cultural exchange is promoted. Advancing international legal interoperability of issues of systemic importance is not an easy task, but one way to start address this challenge is analysing existing initiatives aimed at producing regulatory models addressing specific issues.
One particular topic that lends itself well to the analysis of the benefits and potential developments of legal interoperability is net neutrality. Indeed, it has been addressed by several jurisdictions, each using a specific approach. At the same time, a net neutrality regulatory model framework has already been elaborated and has inspired more than one organisation, such as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The principle is a good example of the importance of legal interoperability as it plays an instrumental function in promoting and protecting the free flow of information and the distributed nature of the Internet. Whereas it might be seen as a domestic matter, exclusively impinging upon how Internet traffic is managed at the national level, the level of protection of network neutrality determines immediate consequences on the Internet users’ capability to freely seek, impart and receive information regardless of frontier.

This paper will examine the relevance of legal interoperability by analysing the approaches towards network neutrality regulation in different countries as well as the potential benefits determined by the utilisation of model frameworks fostering regulatory convergence rather than fragmentation. A lot of academic research has been undertaken with the aim of explaining what net neutrality is and how it should be addressed by national legislators and policy makers. However, there is a pending need to understand how the rules that have already been adopted will or will not promote or hinder the development of the legal interoperability within the Internet. In order to do so, this paper will be structured in three sections aimed at analysing (i) the concept of interoperability and its potential transposition from the technical to the regulatory level; (ii) the regulatory state of play of net neutrality, highlighting the various legal approaches that have been adopted, to date, in order to frame net neutrality at the national level; and (iii) the potential benefits that a legally interoperable approach to net neutrality has the potential to determine in terms of both legal certainty and transaction costs for businesses.

The authors do not wish to have the proposal considered for presentation in the Poster session.



Tim Brennan


avatar for Nathalia Foditsch

Nathalia Foditsch

Communications Law and Policy Specialist, American University


Sunday September 27, 2015 10:05am - 10:40am
GMUSL - Room 121

Attendees (18)