A "Third Way" on Net Neutrality

Article Source: Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, May 2006
Publication Date:
Time to Read: 2 minute read
Written By:

 Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D. Atkinson

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This paper assesses proposals to regulate broadband networks.


Policy Relevance:

Both sides of the net neutrality debate have valid concerns. Moderate rules of the road set by Congress and enforced by the FCC can fairly address concerns by both sides.


Key Takeaways:
  • “Net Neutrality” proposals would restrict broadband networks from charging more for a “fast lane” or from treating different content differently. Both sides have some valid concerns.

  • A totally open Internet will not work well for technologies like tele-medicine that need a fast lane, and has security and investment risks.

  • Carriers usually will treat users fairly, but in rare cases might benefit by targeting a rival.

  • Proposals like the Markey bill (H.R. 5273, 2006) restrict broadband carrier’s freedom too much. If carriers see high risk and low returns from their huge investment in networks, consumers and high-tech will be harmed as further investment lags.

  • We propose a moderate solution:
    • Broadband carriers’ terms of service should clearly say how much bandwidth will be provided, and any limits on the provisions. To be allowed to call service “broadband”, a network must offer a level of basic, growing, and unmanaged access. The FCC's role is to police compliance.
    • Congress should empower the FCC to run expedited competition courts to ensure that networks do not take actions that harm competition.
    • Financial incentives to grow broadband should be offered only to carriers that do their best to provide users with an open pipe fitting an evolving definition of broadband.



Philip J. Weiser

About Philip J. Weiser

Phil Weiser is the Hatfield Professor of Law and Telecommunications, and Executive Director and Founder of the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado. From June 2011-July 2016, Professor Weiser served as Dean after re-joining the Colorado faculty in June, 2011. From April 2010-June 2011, he served as the Senior Advisor for Technology and Innovation to the National Economic Council Director at the White House.