Platform Models for Sustainable Internet Regulation
The dynamic nature of the telecommunications industry, with its rapidly changing technology and industry structure, presents a serious challenge to the theory and practice of regulation, which has a slower response time and a tendency to embed assumptions about technology and industry into regulation. This paper proposes a model that attempts to capture two durable and persistent features of today's telecommunications ecosystem: the use of layered platforms to implement desired functionality; and interconnection between actors at different platform layers. We use platform theory, and in particular theories of multi-sided platforms (MSPs), to focus on key technical and business aspects of today's industry. We use an MSP-aware layered model of the ecosystem to explore several recent and impending innovations in the ecosystem that have been naively conflated with the global Internet, illuminate their differences, and describe how regulators could use our model to more rigorously consider them. To illustrate its potential as a baseline for future research, we briefly consider how this model can help scope consistent policy discourse of three policy challenges: specialized services, minimum quality regulations ("the dirt road" problem), and structural separation.