Net Neutrality and Consumer Welfare
Gary S. Becker
University of Chicago - Department of Economics; University of Chicago - Booth School of Business
Dennis W. Carlton
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
affiliation not provided to SSRN
September 1, 2010
Journal of Competition Law and Economics, Forthcoming
The Federal Communications Commission’s proposed net neutrality rules would, among other things, prohibit broadband access providers from prioritizing traffic, charging differential prices based on the priority status, imposing congestion-related charges, and adopting business models that offer exclusive content or that establish exclusive relationships with particular content providers. The proposed regulations are motivated in part by the concern that the broadband access providers will adopt economically inefficient business models and network management practices due to a lack of sufficient competition in the provision of broadband access services. This paper addresses the competitive concerns motivating net neutrality rules and addresses the potential impact of the proposed rules on consumer welfare. We show that there is significant and growing competition among broadband access providers and that few significant competitive problems have been observed to date. We also evaluate claims by net neutrality proponents that regulation is justified by the existence of externalities between the demand for Internet access and content services. We show that such interrelationships are more complex than claimed by net neutrality proponents and do not provide a compelling rationale for regulation. We conclude that antitrust enforcement and/or more limited regulatory mechanisms provide a better framework for addressing competitive concerns raised by proponents of net neutrality.
Keywords: net, neutrality
JEL Classification: K20, K21, K23, L40, L50, L51, L52, L96, L98, O31, O38
Date posted: October 24, 2010
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