Tinker Don’t Tamper In Governing the Internet

Borrowing heavily from complexity theory, which recognizes that complex systems are networked, highly adaptive, and prone to rapid change from very small perturbances, Richard S. Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel for Google, believes policymakers should be adaptive rather than prescriptive when regulating the Internet.

He presented his opinion, Tinkering Without Tampering, during a lively exchange with students enrolled in the Intellectual Property Colloquium taught by Professors Scott Hemphill, Clarisa Long and Tim Wu.

From regulation of broadband access, which is currently experiencing the most regulatory activity, to control of Internet content, Whitt feels the job of policy makers is to ensure fair play by supporting a diversity of opinion and options within the Internet market.

He points to norms that have naturally evolved around search engines, such as Google -- no eavesdropping, no content blockage, no direct fees for service -- as market expectations that providers would be foolish to ignore.

In his opinion, policy’s role is to support competition and a diversity of inputs, connectivity and feedbacks necessary for healthy complex adaptive systems.