Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Networks and Infrastructure, Broadband and Net Neutrality

Article Snapshot


Tim Wu


Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 141-176, 2003


This paper looks at ideas to support open access to the Internet, including net neutrality rules.

Policy Relevance

A nondiscrimination rule that allows carriers to manage bandwidth on their local network would be the best network neutrality rule.

Main Points

  • Network neutrality is an important goal because a network that treats all applications alike end-to-end promotes innovation by network users.

  • Three types of rules have been proposed to help ensure competitive broadband markets: structural remedies, a non-discrimination regime, and self- or non-regulation.

  • A structural remedy would restrict broadband carriers like cable companies from “bundling” Internet access with their own content and applications. This might preclude firms from developing applications that need higher levels of quality that can be offered by integrated carriers.

  • An anti-discrimination rule would bar carriers from treating applications (such as commercial virtual private networks, or VPNs) differently. Carriers would be allowed to distinguish between low, medium and high bandwidth users instead.

  • In practice, broadband carriers often restrict commercial uses, home networking, the use of servers to provide content.

  • It might not be in broadband carriers’ best interests to discriminate, and regulation can be of educational value.

  • A good network neutrality rule would allow carriers to manage bandwidth use on the parts of the network that they own locally, while limiting only applications actually shown to be harmful. Limits that affect traffic between networks would be suspect.

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