Net Neutrality and Consumer Access to Content
University of Sussex Law School
SCRIPT-ed, Vol. 4, No. 4
'Net Neutrality' is a very heated and contested United States policy principle regarding access for content providers to the Internet end-user, and potential discrimination in that access where the end-user's ISP (or another ISP) blocks that access in part or whole. The suggestion is that the problem can be resolved by either introducing greater competition, as for instance in certain Western European nations under the Telecoms Framework 2002 (as proposed for amendment 2007), or closely policing conditions for vertically integrated service, such as VOIP. This assumes that competition in the 'local loop' or 'last mile' to the end-user subscriber provides a choice of platform, and therefore rigorous telecoms competition regulation resolves the issue in Europe. However, that may not be the whole story. The question this paper aims to answer is: Are Internet Service Providers motivated to require content providers to pay for superior service via lower levels of service for the same price (e.g. blocking or 'throttling' content) or higher price for higher Quality of Service? Can abusive discrimination take place even where an ISP does not have dominance? I consider market developments and policy responses in Europe and the United States, conclusions and regulatory recommendations.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: telecommunications, networks, net neutrality
JEL Classification: K00
Date posted: February 4, 2008