Olivier Sylvain, Associate Professor, Fordham School of Law
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm
One of the few clear priorities of the federal Communications Act is to ensure that all Americans have reasonably comparable access to the Internet without respect to whom or where they are. Yet, in spite of this, the main focus of policymakers and legal scholars in Internet policy today has been on promoting innovation, a concept that Congress barely invokes in the statute. The flagship regulatory intervention for this approach is “network neutrality,” a rule that forbids Internet providers from blocking or interfering with users’ connections.
This talk will critique the prevailing approach and call for a fundamental return to the distributional equality principle at the heart of communications law. While it has virtue, the singular focus on innovation could starkly exacerbate existing racial, ethnic, and class disparities because the quality of users’ Internet connections refract through those persistent demographic variables.
Olivier Sylvain's academic interests include the public lawmaking processes generally and communications law and policy in particular. He has written a variety of law review articles, policy papers, newspaper columns, and blog posts on current controversies in broadband policy, Internet governance, privacy, and copyright. His most recent research projects are Network Equality, 67 Hastings L. J. __ (forthcoming in 2016), on the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet rulemaking, Disruption and Deference, 74 Maryland L. Rev. 715 (2015), on the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in ABC v. Aereo on the public performance right and online video distribution, and Failing Expectations: Fourth Amendment Doctrine in the Era of Total Surveillance, 49 Wake Forest L. Rev. 485 (2014), on the third-party doctrine. He has also been an invited panelist and speaker at several recent conferences and symposia on Internet governance.
At Fordham, Olivier teaches Legislation and Regulation, Administrative Law, and Internet-related courses. He is also a Research Associate at the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center. Before entering academia, Olivier was a Karpatkin Fellow in the National Legal Office of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City and a litigation associate at Jenner & Block, LLC, in Washington, D.C.