Daniel Lyons

Daniel Lyons

Daniel Lyons is a visiting fellow with AEI's Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy, and an associate professor at Boston College Law School, where he specializes in telecommunications and Internet regulation, as well as administrative law. Professor Lyons’ scholarship focuses on the challenges that technological development poses for legacy regulatory regimes. Among other topics, he has written on technology convergence and the need to redefine the boundary between federal and state jurisdiction over telecommunications; the relationship between net neutrality and traditional common carriage; and the importance of allowing pricing innovation in broadband markets. He is also a member of the Board of Academic Advisors for the Free State Foundation and a Fellow with the Boston Bar Association. Before joining the faculty, Professor Lyons practiced energy and telecommunications law at Munger, Tolles & Olson and at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles. Professor Lyons earned both his bachelor’s degree and juris doctorate from Harvard University and after graduation, he clerked for Hon. Cynthia Holcomb Hall on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California.

Consumer protection and viral videos: Will the FTC prune Vine?

One of the difficulties of regulating in cyberspace is the need to remain flexible to meet new innovations and ever-changing market conditions. Regulators must determine how to achieve important public policy objectives without unduly inhibiting the evolution of new products and services. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been walking this fine line for over a decade with mixed results, may soon face this challenge again; innovative advertising could force it to bring its stodgy old-school consumer protection laws to the edgy, ironic teenage world of Vine. The commission has long regulated advertising disclosures, as part of its mandate to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive trade practices, and has developed an intricate web of reporting requirements. While paid product placement alone need not be disclosed (except in television or radio programs pursuant to Federal Communications Commission rules), disclosure may be required if a message makes an objective claim about the product that could be misleading without clarification.
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Zero rating: Narrowing the digital divide in the mobile broadband market

The tech policy world is once again atwitter about sponsored data and other initiatives that offer consumers free access to Internet-based content and services. Last week, Professor Susan Crawford described such arrangements as “pernicious,” “dangerous,” and “malignant.” Our own Bret Swanson offered an excellent response here that counters many of Professor Crawford’s assertions. This post offers additional support for the seemingly obvious proposition that we should encourage initiatives that reduce the cost to consumers of accessing the goods and services they desire. Professor Crawford’s argument is premised on the notion that consumers need access to all Internet content at all times on all devices at the same price. But as she seems to acknowledge, this homogenized view of broadband access is increasingly at odds with how consumers are using the Internet. Internationally, numerous wireless carriers offer social media plans that include talk, text, and access to selected sites such as Facebook and Twitter for a lower price than a traditional data plan. These plans have proven incredibly popular: Turkcell, for example, reports that it sold 600,000 subscriptions to its Facebook social media package in the first four months alone, which it credits with helping spark an 820% increase in mobile Facebook use among the company’s customer base.
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Will the FCC be sued over net neutrality? Let’s hope so.

Late last month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler lamented that the agency will likely be sued no matter what net neutrality rule the commission ultimately adopts. He noted that Comcast, Verizon, and other broadband providers (in Wheeler’s parlance, the “big dogs”) have successfully challenged the agency’s prior attempts to regulate broadband network management practice. Wheeler might also have noted that the first judicial challenge to the 2011 rules came not from industry but from Free Press, which accused the agency of not going far enough. Given this history, the politically charged nature of the issue, and recent rhetoric from interested parties, Wheeler is probably correct that another court case is inevitable. But this development should be embraced, not feared. Judicial review of the agency's decision-making is a good thing – both for the agency and for the people that it serves.
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Telecom law primer: Program access and program carriage rules

Last week, President Obama endorsed the reclassification of broadband Internet access as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act. The president’s concern, and the concern of other net neutrality supporters, is that broadband providers may misuse their position in the Internet ecosystem to affect upstream markets for Internet-based content. Of course, this is not the first time the FCC has considered the potential for anticompetitive foreclosure by a network provider. For nearly a quarter-century, the commission has administered the program access and program carriage rules, which guard against the risk that a cable company will abuse its position as a bottleneck in the video distribution market.
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FTC overlooks true villains in AT&T cramming settlement

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $105 million multi-agency settlement with AT&T Mobility LLC. The FTC, along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and various state law enforcement officials, had accused the wireless provider of unlawfully billing customers for third-party charges – a practice known as “cramming.” The settlement is a significant milestone, not only in the government’s ongoing efforts to control cramming but also in the use of...