Authors Offer "Skeptic’s" Overview, Warn of Unintended Consequences
WASHINGTON D.C. - The discussion of network neutrality mandates has expanded outside of technology policy circles, with consumer groups, political grassroots organizations and membership associations of all types jumping into the debate. In an effort to guide policymakers and dispel misleading rhetoric in the network neutrality debate, The Progress & Freedom Foundation is releasing "A Skeptic's Primer on Net Neutrality Regulation."
The primer is authored by key members of the Digital Age Communications Act (DACA) Project. They include PFF President and Senior Fellow Raymond Gifford; Thomas Lenard, PFF Senior Fellow and Senior Vice President for Research; Kyle Dixon, PFF Senior Fellow and Director of the Federal Institute for Regulatory Law and Economics; Adam Thierer PFF Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Digital Media Freedom; and Randolph May, President of the Free State Foundation. The authors address the issues, misconceptions and concerns permeating the network neutrality debate in a simple question-and answer-format. The primer offers a definition of network neutrality, its possible scope, its affects on competition and its expansion to future regulation of the Internet.
In the Barton-Rush bill or "COPE Act," recently passed by the U.S. House, network neutrality was addressed by including what some termed "weak" language to the bill, while rejecting a broader amendment on the House floor. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is due to consider S. 2686, the "Communications, Consumers' Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006," which currently includes a provision requiring further study of network neutrality by the FCC.
In addition to a full discussion of the issue, the PFF authors warn of broad, unintended consequences of network neutrality regulation. Network neutrality mandates could:
- weaken the competitive vibrancy of the content, applications and device components of the Internet, such as video or voice
- forbid security and reliability fixes within a network
- deter innovation and investment in broadband "pipes"
- usher in subsequent regulation of the Internet
- not necessarily be limited to the platform layer of the Internet
- discourage new business models
- result in price regulation.
The authors agree that government should continue to play a vital roll in expressing a preference for investment, innovation and consumer choice. They conclude, however, that imposing network neutrality across-the-board at this time would harm consumers more than help them. The authors instead urge policymakers to focus on competition concerns, recognizing that market forces can address concerns of "content discrimination" quickly and more efficiently than government. The full primer, executive summary, and a comprehensive list of PFF publications on the issue of network neutrality can be found here.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.