Friday, March 11, 2011
This Note examines the appropriate regulatory framework for the distribution of commercial video content over the Internet. As online video providers such as Netflix and Hulu expand, they are beginning to compete directly with the video services of major cable and telecommunications companies. Because these companies oftentimes also serve as a customer’s Internet service provider, they are in the position of carrying these competitive services over their broadband networks. This state of affairs has led to calls for regulation that would protect nascent online video services from feared anticompetitive actions by the major providers.
In April 2010, against the backdrop of this expanding conflict, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - the normal arbiter of American communications policy - was dealt a defeat by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Comcast Corporation v. FCC. There, the circuit court invalided the FCC’s jurisdictional approach to regulating the broadband Internet. Although the FCC has subsequently reasserted its jurisdiction over broadband, the fallout from Comcast has rekindled debates as to whether broadband is best governed by proscriptive FCC regulation, or whether oversight of this marketplace should be left to the general antitrust authorities - the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This Note argues that, given the uncertainty regarding its authority, the FCC should abandon its efforts to regulate broadband video distribution in the absence of clear market harms. This Note proposes that this dynamic and rapidly evolving marketplace should develop outside the bounds of proscriptive regulations, with antitrust serving as a backstop if market intervention proves necessary.
Download the Note from SSRN at the link.