I’ve been working away at a new way to think about internet/web policy – one of the reasons why this blog has been so quiet for the last few months. I hinted at this work back in November in the post Gardening the Web.
Technology and business shifts constantly change the context in which regulators have to make policy for the internet/web. There are also abiding policy imperatives that always need to be met: revenue, economic vitality, public safety, consumer protection, and culture and values.
Policy makers use mental models to frame policy questions and actions. However, technical change calls into question the approaches used successfully to date. This paper outlines a schema for communications regulation that reflects the nature of the internet/web. The framework is inspired by the metaphor of the garden, and is grounded in an understanding of complex adaptive social systems, of which gardens are one example.
A consideration of systems theory yield tactics (tools) and strategies (principles) that guide policy making in meeting the over-arching regulatory goals of stability and productivity. The three guiding principles are fostering experimentation, designing flexible policies, and building in resilience. These principles are implemented through tools such as encouraging diversity, keeping an open mind, delegating, setting clear boundaries, taking a holistic approach, transparency, and modeling policy choices.
The application of the framework is illustrated in a discussion of three current policy questions: video regulation, rules for internet voice services, and licensed vs. unlicensed spectrum allocation.