Tim Wu and Christopher Yoo on Network Neutrality Amidst the Google, Verizon, and FCC Debates

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on August 11, 2010


Network neutrality remains front and center in the news.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) drew criticism by holding closed-door meetings with a handful of big web firms and network service providers (Google, AT&T, and Verizon among them). The purpose of the meetings was for major Internet content firms and network service providers to put aside their differences on how Internet service providers control content on their networks and agree on legislation that FCC Chairman Genachowski can present to Congress.

By the end of the week, the talks had been called off following the news of a separate agreement between Verizon and Google.

Monday (8/9/10), Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg laid out a joint policy proposal that provides guidelines for how information and Internet traffic should be handled over wireless and wireline networks. Included is an outlines of the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. The joint proposal was outlined in a blog post titled, “A Joint Policy for an Open Internet.” The blog states that the joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers.

On the same day, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps released a statement on the Verizon-Google announcement:

“Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That’s one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward—a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.”

Every major journal that covers technology issues has reported on the joint Google – Verizon proposal. To name a few: The Washington Post: “Google’s Deal on Equal Internet Access Opens Door to New Clout;” the Los Angeles Times: “Google, Verizon Propose Net Neutrality Rules;” Silicon Valley Mercury News: “Google, Verizon Issue Net Neutrality Proposal;” the Huffington Post: “Google, Verizon Outline Internet Policy Proposal: Read Their Plan;” and The New York Times: “Web Plan From Google and Verizon Is Criticized.”

Long before these recent FCC talks and the Google – Verizon joint proposal, TAP scholars have been exploring network neutrality issues and sharing their research. Below, we highlight two of the TAP academics known for their work on net neutrality.

Tim Wu
, Professor of Law at Columbia University
Professor Wu specializes in telecommunications law, copyright, and international trade. In 2006, Wu was recognized by Scientific American for his work on network neutrality theory.

• “Network Neutrality,” with co-author Professor Lawrence Lessig, is a submission to the FCC in 2003 that supports new rules providing for “network neutrality” on the Internet. A main point examined is that network neutrality rules would encourage investment in applications that use broadband networks and protect fair competition.

• “Subsidizing Creativity through Network Design: Zero-Pricing and Net Neutrality,” co-authored with Professor Robin S. Lee of New York University, asks if regulation is needed to keep prices to access content online from changing.

• “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires,“ forthcoming book, describes the never-ending tension between open and closed media, as it has effected everything from the printing press to the web; and details ways society might be able to prevent the disastrous closing down of digital freedoms that may threaten the open internet.”

Christopher Yoo
, Professor of Law and Communications at the University of Pennsylvania
Professor Yoo’s research focuses on how economic theories of imperfect competition are transforming the regulation of the Internet and other forms of electronic communications. He has been a leading voice in the “network neutrality” debate that has dominated Internet policy over the past several years.

• “The Economics of Net Neutrality: Why the Physical Layer of the Internet Should Not Be Regulated” outlines key insights that Professor Yoo believes is overlooked in the network neutrality debate. A few examples: a close relationship between network neutrality and the economics of vertical integration is demonstrated; the potential benefits of allowing last-mile providers to deviate from complete interoperability is analyzed; and the proper role of regulation is examined.

• “Network Neutrality, Consumers, and Innovation” assesses how network neutrality rules for broadband networks would affect consumers. The article recognizes that in some cases, regulators might need to step in to help consumers. However, Yoo shows there is little evidence that broad net neutrality rules are needed, and such rules would likely harm consumers.

• “Rethinking Broadband Internet Access,” co-authored with Professor Daniel Spulber, Northwestern University, assesses how regulation would be likely to affect broadband networks. The article shows that proposed broadband rules such as network neutrality are not needed, and will discourage investment in networks and interfere with network operations.

Furthermore, TAP has published previous blog posts on net neutrality. Nicholas Economides, Professor of Economics at New York University explained why we need net neutrality. And TAP staff has highlighted select academics and their articles with “FCC, Broadband Regulation, and the Net Neutrality Debate,” and “Two Videos That Examine Net Neutrality.”