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bright-line rule

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A bright-line rule, also known as a bright-line test, is a law or standard that is intended to be unambiguous and prevent subjective interpretation. Bright-line rules are commonly used to make quick, predictable and consistent decisions.

In the court system, bright-line rules allow courts to make speedy decisions when legal precedent has been set. Although some law scholars prefer hard rules with bright lines, critics complain that they are too simplistic to consistently provide true justice. By definition, bright-line rules do not take individual circumstances or changing societal norms into consideration.

In communication services in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the Open Internet Order of 2010  to provide bright-line rules for fixed and mobile broadband. These rules, which continue to play an important part in discussions about Net Neutrality are:

  1. No blocking -  broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.
  2. No throttling - broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.
  3. No paid prioritization -  broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for payment. 
This was last updated in April 2017

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