Network Policy and Economic Doctrines

24 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2012

See all articles by Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D. Atkinson

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 15, 2010


For many years debates over network policy were marked by a relative lack of partisan and ideological conflict. In the last decade or so this has changed markedly. Today, debates over a whole set of issues, including broadband competition, net neutrality, copyright, privacy, and others, have become more contentious. These disagreements don't stem just from politics, in the sense of conflicts between interests. They also stem from differences over doctrine – differences in deeply held views of the appropriate kind of network policy, that in turn lead different people to stress different goals and values and different assumptions about how networks, and economies work.

While many network policy issues have an engineering basis, with disagreements reflecting different views among engineers about technical matters, much of network policy is based in economics. And despite what many economists claim, economic approaches differ substantially. These approaches reflect differences in the economic doctrine held by the economist, advocate or policy maker. This paper postulates four competing economic doctrines: conservative neoclassical, liberal neoclassical, neo- Keynesian; and innovation economics. Each doctrine leads to different views of the appropriate network policy. Understanding this doctrinaire source of differences over network policy should help to help policy makers better understand these issues and hopefully make better decisions. This paper describes the role of doctrines in economics. It describes the four different doctrines. It then explores the influence of these doctrines on four controversial network policy issues: broadband competition, net neutrality, copyright, and privacy.

Suggested Citation

Atkinson, Robert D., Network Policy and Economic Doctrines (August 15, 2010). TPRC 2010. Available at SSRN:

Robert D. Atkinson (Contact Author)

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ( email )

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