The Paper On Network Neutrality That Any Policy Maker Needs To Read

from the read-it-now dept

As regular Techdirt readers are surely aware, Tim Lee has been writing a series of posts here about issues having to do with network neutrality. The five part series, was based on research he was doing for a position paper for the Cato Institute on network neutrality. If you haven’t read the series of posts, you can find them here:

Whether or not you’ve read those posts, you should absolutely read the finished product, which has now been released by Cato. While the document is long, it should be required reading for anyone interested in the issues surrounding network neutrality. It’s well-researched, well-written and quite thought-provoking — challenging many of the claims made by supporters of “both sides” of the debate, highlighting the fact that reducing network neutrality to “two sides” has always been a mistake.

Specifically, Lee, rips apart the arguments made by those who believe that various service providers need to violate network neutrality “end-to-end” principles, pointing out how it’s based on faulty logic. He also dismantles faulty arguments from those who claim that the internet is not or never was “neutral.” He also details why the concept of neutrality has been quite important to the growth and success of the internet, and he cites much of the innovation that came about because of it.

However, rather than supporting the efforts of “network neutrality supporters” (which is common in the tech world), he points out why we probably do not need regulations to enforce network neutrality — highlighting non-regulatory methods that have, and will continue to, keep network providers honest. Yes, there may be encroachments at the margins — but, for the most part they turn out to be unsustainable both due to the backlash of users and the fact that they often end up making very little business sense.

Finally, he points out the risks of unintended consequences from any network neutrality legislation, pointing to similar situations in the past in other industries, that resulted in “regulatory capture,” where the industries being regulated were able to abuse the regulatory process to their own benefit. He also takes a look at the most likely proposed legislation, highlighting just a few of the more obvious problems that would crop up if it were turned into law.

Anyone who is making policy or supporting a particular policy around network neutrality is doing themselves a tremendous disservice if they do not take the time to read this paper. Whether you’re advocating for network neutrality laws, or claiming that service providers have to violate network neutrality to stay alive, you need to take the time to read this paper, and either come up with the evidence to refute Tim’s points, or perhaps recognize that the way this issue has been painted in the press does not give the complete picture.

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Comments on “The Paper On Network Neutrality That Any Policy Maker Needs To Read”

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Iron Chef says:

Re: Re:


Warmest Congratulations. With any luck you will have that PHd you’ve been looking for.

Let me say that when you wrote here, it seemed like you were writing to a different audience and honestly, I couldn’t put together a good response that would fit as being your end goal. Hence: If you hear nothing, it means one of two things: Very Good, or horribly, horribly wrong.

You choose.

While I will admit that I haven’t finished reading the fill CATO report, but have to say the tie-ins to ICanHazCheezburger and
“09F911029D74E35B84156C5635688C0” are genius, and concepts only a few will be able to properly understand and fully grasp.

Now that the proverbial “cat is out of the bag” and we know your doing some work for CATO, and we have a little idea what you were working on, I humbly ask can you continue here with how to win at Rock-Paper-Scissors, or the self-driving car? I hear you have some good ideas.

Hope you stick around.

My Warmest Regards

Anonymous Coward says:


It would be required reading assuming that our elected officials who make policy decisions actually care about the decisions they are tasked to make. Aside from the soundbites and news clips they can harvest to appeal to the most amount of voters I doubt many of them truly stop to think about what’s best for their constituents, but rather what is best for only themselves.

President Schwarzenegger says:

I was elected to lead, not to read. Number three!

Russ Cargill: Mr. President?
President Schwarzenegger: Ja, dat is me.
Russ Cargill: Pollution in Springfield has reached crisis levels.
President Schwarzenegger: Oh, I hate this job! Everything’s “crisis” this and “end of the world” that! Nobody opens with a joke! I miss Danny DeVito.
Russ Cargill: You want a joke, huh? Stop me if you’ve heard… THIS one!
[He holds up a cage containing the multi-eyed squirrel]
President Schwarzenegger: Aaah! Look at those angry eyes and giant teeth! It’s like Christmas at the Kennedy Compound!
Russ Cargill: You know, sir, when you made me head to the EPA, you were applauded for appointing one of the most successful men of the America to the least successful agency in government. And why did I take the job? Cause I’m a rich man, and wanted to give something back. Not the money, but something. So here’s our chance to kick some ass for Mother Earth!
President Schwarzenegger: I’m listening.
Russ Cargill: [gets out five files] Well, I’ve narrowed your choices down to five unthinkable options. Each will cause untold misery and–
President Schwarzenegger: I pick number three!
Russ Cargill: You don’t wanna read them first?
President Schwarzenegger: I was elected to lead, not to read. Number three!

arbulus says:

the most ridiculous part of the whole neutrality discussion is when some one says that ISPs will self regulate and that market forces will prevent them from acting ins way that is disadvantageous to the customer. That line of thinking is so absurd and ignorant of the real world. At&t and Comcast couldn’t care less what is in my best interests and are only going to act in a way that profits them most.

Furthermore, there is no market force. A very very large number of location (including mine) have no choice of ISP, we get the one company that servers our area or we get nothing at all. And the ISPs know that they can do what ever they want and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Also look at the current trend of bandwidth caps: they are not in the best interest of any customer, they’re not even in the best interest of the ISPs. But they’re doing it anyway.

My point is: ISPs will never self regulate. The never have. And market forces cannot change this because there is no market, only local monopolies.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the most ridiculous part of the whole neutrality discussion is when some one says that ISPs will self regulate and that market forces will prevent them from acting ins way that is disadvantageous to the customer.

Are you just responding to a random strawman, or did you not actually read the paper? If you have specific responses to what’s in the paper, that would be interesting, but I don’t believe Tim says what you’re claiming above.

Anonymous Coward says:

Other industries

I wish they would get rid of regulations and neutrality rules in other industries. For example, if I have an bad neighbor that I want to make move I would like to be able to call up the electric company and tell them “Look, what ever profit you have been making from my neighbor each month, I will pay you twice that to cut them off.” Then by virtue of seeking the greatest profits they should comply and, before you know it, my bad neighbor is moving out. Pure, beautiful, capitalistic economics. Or the same thing could be done if I was a shop owner and wanted to eliminate a competitor. But no, regulations prohibit such things. What a shame.

Brett Glass says:

Net Neutrality Not Needed

Tim is absolutely correct when he says that the right answer is to let market forces ensure that consumers are satisfied.
Regulation — and it wouldn’t be neutral; all of the so-called “neutrality” bills actually favor fat cats like Google — would only stymie development of the competition that’s the right answer to the problem. In particular, it would hurt small, independent, rural, and wireless ISPs who stand to increase broadband penetration and deployment while providing healthy competition for the telephone and cable companies. Want a ruthless duopoly? It’ll happen if “network neutrality” (not!) legislation is passed.

Peter Blaise Monahon (profile) says:

We the people ...


We the people … need to empower ourselves through our self governance to make sure corporate citizens stay second class citizens and thereby better serve us.

So long as our self governance bodies keep the powers of “we the people” equal to or superior to incorporated non-citizens, then fine, we can speak for ourselves.

However, when the corporations have more powers than their citizen customers that they are empowered to serve, THATS when we need our collective self governance to step in and stand up for us and direct the otherwise non-free market to do our bidding.

“Free market” should mean free, not “corporations are bigger, they have the might, therefore they have the all the rights”.


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