Network Neutrality

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

Article Snapshot


Lawrence Lessig and Tim Wu


Ex Parte Submission in FCC CS Docket No. 02-52. August 22, 2003.


This letter supports new rules providing for “network neutrality” on the Internet.

Policy Relevance

Network neutrality rules would encourage investment in applications that use broadband networks and protect fair competition.

Main Points

  • Without network neutrality rules, developers of applications that use broadband and consumers trying to use those applications can be disappointed if broadband network operators restrict their use.
    • Some broadband networks have banned or limited online gaming, Virtual Private Networks, or home networking.

  • One goal of the Federal Communications Commission is to promote broadband networks. To do this, the Commission supports competition between many types of broadband.

  • Allowing broadband carriers to limit the applications used on broadband networks would be the same as the Commission choosing winner and losers among competing players.

  • The Commission should not wait and see if market forces are enough to keep broadband carriers from unfairly restricting competition, because the potential that they will do so restricts investment now.

  • Broadband carriers that restrict and limit the use of some broadband applications are not doing so to convey a message, so network neutrality rules would not violate free speech rights.

  • Network neutrality rules should require networks to allow applications, except when the carrier can show that the application causes problems with the part of the local network that they own.
    • For example, the carrier would be allowed to limit how much bandwidth users use, so that online gamer would need to pay more for extra bandwidth, but the carrier could not block the use of online gaming software.

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