Net Neutrality

I wish that I had the time and the expertise to really get on top of the net neutrality debate. Anyone old enough to remember hacking into your telephone connection at home in order to wire in an additional handset should remember the dark side of telecomm monopolies. Anyone not old enough to remember that should find one of us old-timers; we’ll explain. Meanwhile, Susan Crawford has some nuts and bolts, including a very interesting application of Brett Frischmann’s and Mark Lemley’s paper on Spillovers. The question (should Congress require something called “net neutrality”?) seems to be part philosophy (“treat the Net like a public utility”) and part economics (the likelihood that incumbent monopolists will be able to sustain supra-competitive pricing and/or suboptimal service).

5 thoughts on “Net Neutrality

  1. It is a very important debate, certainly worth wading into. I’ve done so in a few papers, including a major portion of my infrastructure paper and a section of Spillovers, and a few blog posts. Still, I wish I could devote more time to it (maybe I’ll get out an essay I’ve been tinkering with later this summer). Tim Wu has a few excellent papers on SSRN.com that are perhaps the best way to get on top of the debate.

    By the way, the part of the question you framed as “part philosophy” is arguably an economic question, and the part of the question you framed as “part economics” involves much more than evaluating the behavior of incumbent monopolists – even if the likelihood of sustained supra-competitive pricing were small, I think there is still a strong economic case to be made for network neutrality.

  2. Brett,
    You know the economic arguments much better than I do, but I do think that a big part of the debate is non-economic (maybe I didn’t phrase that elegantly in my post, and I used the wiggle word “seems” there to give me just this escape hatch!).
    On the economic side, the barriers-to-entry point may be something of a red herring, since the barriers to entry are, in fact, enormous, and the potential harms to competition, innovation, and consumer welfare don’t consist only of supra-competitive pricing.
    Mike

  3. Mike,

    Right, I agree with you on that. I didn’t mean to be knit-picky. You are absolutely right that much of the debate is non-economic.
    Brett

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