Research & Commentary: Advantages of Net Diversity

Published October 1, 2010

Many economists and Web experts say a “non-neutral” Internet has a host of significant advantages. Network diversity encourages growth and variety of services and is a requirement for a host of exciting new technologies.

Many emerging Web technologies can benefit from an Internet in which providers are free to apply differential treatment to packets of information. The Federal Communication Commission’s attempt to codify network neutrality, by contrast, would standardize an interface for scheduling packet delivery. TCP/IP, the leading Internet protocol, inherently delivers bits of information in the order they arrived. This system “disfavors applications that are less tolerant of variations in throughput rates, such as streaming media and Internet telephony,” notes Christopher S. Yoo, founding director of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition.

These new technologies require network diversity. David Myslinki, legislative assistant for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s infotech and telecom task force, and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Litan note network neutrality would force telemedicine–a lifesaving technology that can enable patients around the world to visit the best specialists without leaving their homes–would be forced to compete for bandwidth with illegal downloads of movies and music.

Packet prioritization is also needed in more commonly used technologies such as online games, video conferencing, VoIP, and a host of other, notes Christopher Davis of the Wisconsin Technology Network.

A non-neutral network is also more secure and less open to outside threats, Yoo observes. An FCC-enforced net neutrality policy would bias the Internet against more robust security software and network protections, leaving it more vulnerable to hacking and other threats.

The following articles provide information about a variety of benefits of network diversity.

Net-Neutrality Threatens Health Care Innovation
“If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or Congress were to enact these regulations, doctors and hospitals would be forced to compete for existing bandwidth with people downloading movies, music, or other files–legal and illegal. When network providers are instead allowed to manage the web traffic running through their servers and prioritize it, services like telemedicine procedures can proliferate.”

Beyond Network Neutrality
Christopher S. Yoo, founding director of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, focuses on the “case for network diversity,” as he calls it. On the benefits of ISP differentiation Yoo writes, “The economics of product differentiation acknowledge that utility can also increase by allowing consumers to obtain goods that fit better with their ideal preferences.”

Promoting Broadband Through Network Diversity
Christopher Yoo examines neutral and non-neutral Webs in several ways. His study shows that a neutral Internet is not possible and has never existed. Next, he argues a neutrality policy would limit “last mile” competition and diversity of service. Finally, he contends a non-neutral Internet has the potential for greater growth and security while embracing new technologies.

Catching the Web in a Net of Neutrality
Robert Litan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explains the effects of an FCC-codified net neutrality policy on emerging medical technologies. He explains many of the misconceptions of net neutrality proponents and suggests we leave the ‘Net unregulated to embrace emerging technologies, specifically telemedicine.

The Internet is Not Neutral (and No Law Can Make It So)–Reason Policy Study 375 Reason telecom expert Steve Titch says it is impossible to make the Internet truly neutral . Many factors affect the speed at which the consumer views data, including computer speed, server speed, search engine non-neutrality, and the like. Companies that knit together server groups for efficient content transfers are an emerging market even within a supposedly neutral current Internet.

The Downside of Net Neutrality Law
This PC World article notes, “access circuits (both wired and wireless) are bandwidth-constrained–and excruciatingly expensive to upgrade (ask Verizon how much it has spent on FiOS). Net neutrality prohibits carriers from recouping those costs by charging differentially based on type of content or quality of service. That means as user demand increases, carriers have just one option for recouping their costs: Charge by the bit.”

Net Neutrality: Good for a Few, but Bad for Most
Regarding Internet video games, Christopher Davis of the Wisconsin Technology Network writes, “The instantaneous nature of the game depends heavily on how fast that small amount of data reaches the game server. Gamers would gladly pay a premium to decrease the delay between them and their preferred servers (Known as lowering their ‘ping’).” He extends this logic to a wealth of other industries which could be improved in a network-diverse framework.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the InfoTech & Telecom News Web site at, The Heartland Institute‘s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, contact Marc Oestreich, legislative specialist in telecommunications, at 312/3774000 or [email protected].