New intermediaries in the hyperconnected society
The 30th EuroCPR conference will take place in Brussels on March 23-24, 2015 and will be dedicated to a set of issues and their consequences for EU policy in several domains, from e-communications regulation to privacy and data protection, intellectual property, industrial policy, the digital agenda, media pluralism, universal access, and many others.
Drastic changes have occurred over the last decade in the ICT sector. The blurring of boundaries between previously distinct sectors is accelerating, and even the traditional four-layer representation of the ecosystem is being challenged by the emergence of a variety of platforms and networks, which display various degrees of openness and patterns of interaction with end users. More specifically, the emergence of Over-The-Top (OTT) players, the growing importance of Content Delivery Networks, the “platformization” of the application layer, and upcoming developments in cloud computing, the Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine communications suggest that the ICT ecosystem is quickly expanding and transforming, and will likely change again in the years to come, with hardly predictable effects in terms of end users’ experience and policy/regulatory challenges.
One very important effect of this evolution is an ongoing process of “dis-intermediation” and “re-intermediation” of many services and markets. The emergence of giant aggregators and new platform operators at various layers of the ecosystem leads to an ongoing process of transformation, which challenges policymakers in many areas of law. To name a few: competition policy suffers as market definition, market power, collection of evidence and the finding of abusive behavior become much more challenging in this environment than in other, more traditional domains, and struggles to capture the new tensions that arise when companies attempt to leverage their points of control over customer relationships to achieve prominence in digital value chains; as a consequence, also EU e-communications regulation, traditionally based on competition law concepts and focused on the infrastructure layer of the ecosystem, appears in great need of a thorough review; privacy and data protection legislation struggle with the emergence of cloud computing and big data, which create new trade-offs between security, customization and privacy; copyright law divides scholars, with some favouring stronger enforcement and others invoking the end of authors’ commercial rights. Increasingly, the ongoing transformation and expansion of the ecosystem conquer new territories, challenging also social policy, education, financial services and many other fields: this leads to further pressure on the “new intermediaries” in terms of behaviour vis-à-vis unaffiliated service providers and end users.
As the evolution of the ecosystem is faster and more international than the regulatory process, the effectiveness of many is challenged. The same can be said for enforcement. This timing problem further empowers new platform operators and aggregators (the “new intermediaries”), to the extent that they are also increasingly called to implement and enforce public policy through private means, as is increasingly the case for privacy and the right to be forgotten, cyber-security and critical information infrastructure protection, net neutrality, search neutrality, etc. To what extent this tendency will be confirmed in the future, and to what extent should the new intermediaries be called to take responsibility for rule enforcement, is matter for discussion.
The 30th EuroCPR conference will take place in Brussels on March 23-24, 2015 and will be dedicated to this set of issues, and their consequences for EU policy in several domains, from e-communications regulation to privacy and data protection, intellectual property, industrial policy, the digital agenda, media pluralism, universal access, and many others.
- Societal impacts of the emerging ICT ecosystem. Themes in this track might include the impact of new technologies and platforms on universal access to information, the potential divide created by the lack of digital literacy, the future of welfare policies such as the provision of healthcare, the future of the job market in light of emerging developments.
- Direct access or new forms of intermediation? What are the respective business cases of direct access and forms of intermediations? What are the relevant business models? What changes are they triggering on incumbent players?
- The role of neutrality, interoperability and openness at all layers of the ICT ecosystem. To what extent neutrality, interoperability and openness are always in the interest of the end user? Do they have an impact on key goals such as static and dynamic competition, data protection, intermediary liability? And, would the current re-intermediation lead to the end of the Internet’s end-to-end architecture?
- Model(s) of competition/issue of dominance: The changing nature of competition is evolving with the growing role of these OTT players, with the growing role of Internet intermediaries. How to assess dominance in multisided markets?
- Regulation of OTTs and other intermediaries: is there a need extending legacy regulation to OTT players or introducing new more comprehensive regulation? Other regulatory issues that fall in this track include privacy protection, intellectual property rights, Net neutrality.
- The need to revisit existing policies. In some policy domains the need to reach a level playing field between competing intermediaries is often evoked. Moreover, often policies are designed to fit a specific territorial organization (country, region). The new players are not only acting outside the former legacy silos but also located outside the territory in which a policy is implemented (e.g quotas and funding obligations). Are these policies still valid, their goals still legitimate in a digital environment. Or are new policies to be designed ad hoc? Key EU legislation affected by these developments includes the e-communications framework, the network and information security directive, the data protection regulation, the e-commerce directive and others.
In line with the EuroCPR philosophy, we welcome papers that reflect on the policy/business and policy/legal dimensions of the topics listed above as well as on their societal and economic implications. We welcome papers that compare policy trends in Europe and other regions of the world, and particularly encourage the submission of empirical work. Please note that also papers that are relevant to the overall conference theme, but not directly related to the suggested themes and topics, will be considered for participation in the conference. All papers will be assessed by a panel of independent reviewers.
A selection of EuroCPR papers will be published in journals such as
- Communications & Strategies;
- Telecommunications Policy; and
- Info, the journal of policy, regulation and strategy for telecommunications, information and media.