Internet Governance as Forestry: Deriving Policy Principles from Managed Complex Adaptive Systems

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This paper proposes a principles-based approach for meeting regulatory goals that suits the dynamics of the internet/web. Innovation in technology, business and culture constantly changes the context in which regulators have to make communications policy. However, there are abiding policy imperatives like public safety, consumer protection, and economic vitality which do not change. Policy makers need an approach which reconciles these competing pressures. The internet/web can be understood as a managed complex adaptive system, such as a forest or other ecosystem. A review of systems theory and the experience of ecosystem management yields four ecosystem management principles: flexibility - determining ends, not prescribing means; delegation - giving markets and civil society the first shot at meeting social needs; big picture - taking a broad view of the problem and solution space; and diversity - enabling multiple solutions to policy problems by encouraging competition and market entry. The metaphor of internet/web governance as forestry, or managing any complex adaptive system, can therefore guide regulatory intuition in communications. The utility of such an approach is illustrated in four policy areas: video services; telecom fees and taxes; service accessibility for the disabled; and access to emergency services."
communication--policy, Internet, adaptive systems