Network Neutrality: History Will Repeat Itself

Communications & Strategies, No. 68, p. 67, 4th Quarter 2007

23 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2009

See all articles by Robert Atkinson

Robert Atkinson

Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI)

Date Written: December 1, 2007


Network neutrality concerns about abusive discrimination by telecom network operators with market power is nothing new. There is long history in the United States of actual discrimination by network operators and consequential government actions to eliminate or at least mitigate the adverse consequences of market power, including unreasonable discrimination. History gives credence to network neutrality advocates' concerns about abusive practices by network operators but, equally, the history also provides assurance that government will step-in to remedy any serious abuses.

With militant internet advocates and huge network-dependent businesses ready to expose any threat to network neutrality, it is difficult to imagine that government won't be aware of any systemic abuse by network operators. So, the network neutrality debate is really more about the pros and cons of ex post and ex ante regulation than some sort of new and unexplored issue of abusive discrimination. Under the current circumstances of no demonstrated abuses by network operators, it is highly likely that most if not all government agencies in the United States will adopt a "wait and see" (ex post) attitude.

However, "network neutrality" is inevitable either because the government will not permit abusive non-neutrality or because the network operators won't "cross the line" and behave in a manner that causes the government to impose onerous regulation. This will leave a "gray area" where some people will object strenuously to network operators' behavior, but the misbehavior will not be great enough to stimulate government intervention.

Keywords: Network neutrality, discrimination, Computer Inquiries,

JEL Classification: L96, L52

Suggested Citation

Atkinson, Robert, Network Neutrality: History Will Repeat Itself (December 1, 2007). Communications & Strategies, No. 68, p. 67, 4th Quarter 2007, Available at SSRN:

Robert Atkinson (Contact Author)

Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI) ( email )

1A Uris Hall, Columbia Business School
3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States


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