“As more of us take up residence in a virtual world, definitions and legal distinctions of the past no longer apply,” Bill Davidow writes for Forbes. “A common carrier today is nothing like what a common carrier used to be. Apple, Google, Facebook, and many others are already well on their way to becoming common carriers in this new space.”
Davidow writes, “What, exactly, is a common carrier? It is any vendor with a monopoly advantage in a market. And because of that advantage, the carrier must provide access to customers without discrimination. A common carrier is legally bound to carry all passengers or freight as long as there is enough space, the fee is paid, and no reasonable grounds to refuse to do so exist. A common carrier that refuses to carry a particular person or cargo without sufficient justification may be sued for damages.”
“Of course, neither Apple nor the government thinks of Apple as a common carrier,” Davidow writes. “The reason is that we tend to associate common carriers with physical properties—railroads, airplanes, trucks, and copper and fiber cables. We do not think of applications that use those facilities as common carriers, but clearly they are. For example, the Post Office is a common carrier: it is an application that uses airplanes, railroads, and trucks owned by other common carriers to carry their freight.”
Davidow writes, “If the Post Office in the 1930’s had behaved like Apple does today, it would have taken a 30 percent cut of everything shipped to customers by the great mail order houses of the day—Sears and Montgomery Ward.”
Read more in the full article here.