Unwarranted Fears Mask the Benefits of Network Diversity: An Argument against Mandating Network Neutrality


The rapid development of the Internet has necessitated an update to Federal telecommunications laws. Recent Congressional efforts to enact such an update, however, have spawned a fiery debate over a somewhat nebulous concept: network neutrality. The debate concerns the way that Internet access providers handle the data traffic being sent over their networks. These providers would like the option to offer some of their customers, web site hosting companies and similar entities, additional services that would essentially result in these customers’ content loading faster, more reliably, or more securely than others not receiving such priority treatment. Yet, this proposed “diversity” of content treatment has worried many who fear that the egalitarian nature of the Internet, under which substantial innovation has occurred, would be disturbed by the imposition of inherent traffic preferences. These individuals propose including a provision in new telecommunications legislation that would mandate a “neutral” Internet where preferences for data are prohibited from being implemented. In this Comment, Elvis Stumbergs sheds some light on details behind the network neutrality debate. Often glossed-over details of Internet architecture are described to illustrate the consequences of a diverse and neutral Internet, and the various arguments for and against network neutrality are summarized. Stumbergs then devotes the Comment primarily to examining present and potential competition in the provision of Internet access, along with regulatory, antitrust, and legislative options available to ensure the preservation of a vigorous Internet access marketplace. Stumbergs concludes that network neutrality proponents’ fears are largely unwarranted. Moreover, imposing network neutrality legislation could ironically hinder the innovation that network neutrality advocates seemingly seek to protect.


Administrative Law | Antitrust and Trade Regulation | Communications Law | Computer Law | Consumer Protection Law | Economics | Internet Law | Law and Economics | Law and Society | Public Law and Legal Theory | Science and Technology Law

Date of this Version

September 2006