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ITIF’s Top 10 Net Neutrality Hits

This past Thursday, the FCC voted to kick off a new attempt at open Internet regulations, marking yet another milestone in the history of the net neutrality debate. Over the years ITIF has been at the forefront of this debate, and will continue to do so. Below is a top-10 list of ITIF publications that both explain how advanced IP networks actually work and advance our “third way,” middle-ground approach.  To see all of ITIF’s work in this area, please go to and click on “issues: broadband”

1. A “Third Way” on Network Neutrality

In May, 2006 Rob Atkinson and Phil Weiser bemoaned the fact that “the network neutrality debate denies the reasonable concerns articulated by each side and obscures the contours of a sensible solution.” Eight years later, and this paper’s diagnosis and cure still hold value. It argues that policymakers should ensure a baseline of a high-bandwidth, best-efforts Internet connection while taking an “antitrust-like” approach to any discriminatory access arrangements.

2. Designed for Change: End-to-end Arguments, Internet Innovation, and the Net Neutrality Debate

One of the meatier ITIF publications on net neutrality, this report digs into the history of network engineering and the varied interpretations of the “end-to-end” principle. “Applied blindly, end-to-end can become a dogma that limits network efficiency, increases costs, and constrains opportunities to innovate. The more information a network component has about the overall state of the network, the sooner it can react to changing conditions and the more effectively it can heal network failures.”

3. Facts of Life: The Citizen’s Guide to Network Engineering

 This report lays out the reasons why modern networks need to be application-aware. It shows how net neutrality resembles the early engineering debates about the best way to use scarce semiconductor resources in the design of network interfaces. These technical questions were settled a long time ago, but the policy community continues to debate them as if they were live issues.

 4. Are We Ready for Net Neutrality?

 This brief memo asks 10 key questions about net neutrality in anticipation of the 2009 NPRM. It argues that “the FCC should engage in a comprehensive, analytical and fact-based inquiry” instead of basing government action on emotion or abstract concerns. Sound advice as we begin this process all over again.

 5. Network Policy and Economic Doctrines

 This paper examines different economic doctrines and their impact on network policy views, helping to explain how profound disagreements persist. The disagreements on network policy that we continue to debate today “don’t stem just from politics, in the sense of conflicts between interests. They also reflect differences over doctrine—differences in deeply held views about appropriate kinds of network policy.”

 6. Managing Broadband Networks: A Policymaker’s Guide

Another substantial report, this one investigates the good reasons for intelligence to be built into the network itself. The report examines the alternative of over-provisioning bandwidth in the hopes of a high-performance, general-purpose network. It argues that “to make progress to a ubiquitous digital world, bigger pipes are not sufficient. We need not just expanded network capacity but networks that are better and more intelligently managed.”

7. Going Mobile: Technology and Policy Issues in the Mobile Internet

Long featured in discussions about net neutrality is the applicability of regulations to mobile services. Mobile broadband faces many restrictions that are not present in wired networks, and it is unlikely that the same sorts of restrictions would make sense for both. In this report, Richard Bennet explores the architecture of mobile networks and the few rules that make sense in a mobile broadband space, concluding that “rather than enacting overly prescriptive regulations against experimenting . . . the FCC should rely primarily on transparency and disclosure to protect consumers from speculative harms, maintain active oversight of provider practices, and reserve direct intervention for instances of clearly harmful conduct.”

8. 2010 FCC Comments in Preserving the Open Internet

These comments in the 2010 Open Internet proceeding lay out the best way to protect and preserve the aspects of the Internet that enable it to serve as an engine of innovation and vehicle for advancing the public interest. The comments caution that any rule making “should be predicated on clear and unambiguous evidence of harm to the growth of the Internet ecosystem and/or harm to consumers or competition.”

9. 2010 Reply Comments in Framework for Broadband Internet Service

These reply comments from the 2010 discussion around what regulatory framework was to be used to support net neutrality regulations take a strong stand against Title II reclassification. Within ITIF shows that “filers in support of reclassification . . . assume that ‘open and neutral’ is a consistent, concrete, practical, and measurable goal . . . . This is an analytical error that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of packet-switching, traffic management on broadband networks, and the means by which multiple types of applications are best supported on common network infrastructure. It also fails to advance national purposes.”

10. Net Neutrality Misunderstandings

Finally, this recent blog post aimed to help clear up the confusion around the general direction of Chairman Wheeler’s recent proposal to protect the open Internet. ITIF continues to support a case-by-case analysis of new business models and prioritization of applications, so long as the right safeguards are in place to protect consumers. The jurisdiction of Section 706 allows the Commission room to move forward with just such an approach.

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