A new study argues against the adoption of network neutrality regulations because the public approves of Internet Service Providers blocking content such as malware and child pornography. Author Gerald R. Faulhaber, professor emeritus at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Law School, also notes allowing ISPs to charge more for faster delivery is like paying more for overnight delivery of mail and business packages and less for “standard delivery.”
Faulhaber’s report, released this past summer, arrived as the Federal Communications Commission continued movement toward officially entering the net neutrality regulations adopted last December into the Federal Register, which they eventually did in late September.
In Economics of Net Neutrality: A Review, Faulhaber concludes net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem: “Since we have had broadband ISPs in the U.S. for over a decade, one might think that the practices of blocking, discrimination and disadvantaging competitors would be rife, and such practices would be well-documented,” he writes. “One might think, but one would be wrong. In over a decade, there were only four examples of purported misconduct.”
The Federal Communications Commission “acknowledges this lack of wrongdoing by referring to the proposed rules as ‘prophylactic or preventive.'” he writes. “Their purpose, therefore, is to prevent things from happening that haven’t actually happened thus far.”
A ‘Regulatory Anvil’
Faulhaber’s findings have support among others who see net neutrality as an untenable position and a philosophy that will stifle innovation. Even some proponents of net neutrality, such as Wharton professors Dan Hunter and Kevin Werbach, have said the government isn’t the place to sort out the issue.
Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a Washington, DC-based free-market advocacy group, calls net neutrality a “regulatory anvil” for the tech sector.
Motley says net neutrality is nothing more than “an Internet regulatory power grab” by the Federal Communications Commission. He says net neutrality is a threat to free markets and job creation.
Champaign, Illinois-based technology consultant John Bambenek points out the imposition of net neutrality would actually make the Internet less secure.
“You simply can’t treat all types of network traffic the same, because they are very different to begin with,” Bambenek explained. “File-sharing, for instance, is very network-intensive, and not putting limits on it can bring a network to its knees. With many of the unlimited bandwidth plans, we’ve seen 90 percent of the resources used by 1 percent of the users if they don’t put some checks in place. Net neutrality would kneecap the ability of ISPs to run their networks.”
Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.
Economics of Net Neutrality: A Review, Gerald R. Faulhaber, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, July 25, 2011: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1894286