Les Contours de Net Neutrality: Openness of the Internet

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Technological development in the last 20 years has made significant change in our day to day lives. The dream of planetary village has been made reality by the large worldwide access to new technologies ???the Internet in particular. Its openness, without any doubt, allowed numerous innovations in different areas of our modern day life. These innovations are ranging from tools of communications, social networking, and cloud storage to online shopping, online learning platform, or online database of scholarly papers, articles, books???. The latest developments of Internet services precipitated important debates about the nature and regulation of the Internet. In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) classified the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communication Act of 1934. The debate is still ongoing as Republican presidential candidates are promising to annul that once in office in 2016. The overall satisfaction of the general public regarding an open and free Internet as propose by John Stuart Mill in his Utilitarian theories, may be the base of justification for such a move by the FCC.

To begin with, let???s examine the concept of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is defined in the paper Net Neutrality: What Is It and Why Should Educators Care? By Vickie S. Cook, as simple paradigm. This paradigm states that information available via the Internet global network of computers should be shared regardless of what information is being sent and from whom without individual subscribers paying additional content delivery fees (Cook, 2014). Thus, users of an online streaming site cannot see their services slowed down by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) because of the websites they???re using or the nature of the content they???re receiving. So therefore, the purpose of use should not affect the quality or the price.

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The Net Neutrality debate is a result of economic and socio-political changes that are transforming the internet. It is a response to U.S telecommunications policies, beginning in 2001 by the elimination of common carriage obligations on broadband access providers. A second factor entered in the game by the diversification of users and uses with the growth of video services on mobile and computers, and users-generated data. This generated new challenges for ISPs charged with managing the existing network capacity and broadening the infrastructures??? reach (Bauer and Boar, 2014). This led the ISPs to propose to charge Content Providers (CPs), such as Netflix that are using considerable amount of broadband, in order to allow them to have more broadband. This then would restrict access to new CPs who cannot afford more broadband.

To summarize this debate, CPs are arguing that without the Net Neutrality, ISPs would have complete control over pricing content thus, will threaten content innovation. And because of the priority lanes, new CPs would find it harder to compete with established ones. In addition access fees and price discrimination would hinder CPs??? innovation incentives. While ISPs are arguing that Net Neutrality would make it harder for them to recover their investments on their broadband network. And it would take away the economic incentives to invest in order to improve and upgrade their infrastructure (Njoroge ,Ozdaglar and Stier, 2013). Furthermore ISPs are arguing that, by nature, broadband is a two sided market, CPs on one side and consumers on the other. Both sides contribute to the total price. Lowering price on one side would result on a high price on the other. So with Net Neutrality in place ISPs are going to charge the full price to the consumers. Thus, the policy proposed by the FCC is both economically inefficient and socially inequitable (Weisman, 2015).

By looking at both side of the argument, we can observe what Mill calls pleasure and pains in two ways. First, the ???pleasure??? of having an open internet which will further human innovations and access to information that would further develop human rights and improve system of education in developing countries and many other benefits;

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and the ???pain??? of having an overloaded network because of the potential increase of CPs as ISPs are arguing. Second, the pleasure of having this two sided market we mentioned above where ISPs would generate enough capital to improve and upgrade the network infrastructure while the consumers don???t see their internet bill raised; and the pains of having the limitations of CPs innovations. Mill tells us it is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognize the fact that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that, while in estimating all other things quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasure should be supposed to depend on quantity alone.(Mill, 1863). This leads us to examine which of the pleasures is greater and which of the pains is greater.

First, let???s examine which of the two pleasures is greater. The first pleasure is ISPs being able to upgrade the network, which is a great thing because it would result in a faster internet for the consumer and adding to the limited content to choose from, the service is going to be super-efficient. The second pleasure is CPs being able to provide innovative content to consumers which would allow information to flow freely and accessible to the maximum number of people across the world. This would bring together different scientist, creators, and inventors to create useful tools and they might as well find innovative ways to build better network that can sustain the massive data stream. In this, we can observe that the pleasure of having Net Neutrality is far greater than not having it for the greater number of people.

Cosumer Reactions: ISP charging extra or slow down services

Will Proportion
Switch to another ISP 49%
Complain on Social Media 22%
Complain to Congress or FCC 14%
Do nothing 19%

Second, now we examine the two pains. The ISPs argues that the pains of having Net Neutrality as we saw above, is not being able to upgrade their network infrastructure and the lack of incentives to do so. They argue that it is economically inefficient. CPs on the other hand, argues that the loss of Net Neutrality would mean we will have a preselected package of website we can access as in TV, it could mean educational libraries have to pay additional fees not just for the content but also for the broadband, it could mean accessing a YouTube video in classroom may have to be paid. This might lead to increase in tuition. This loss could also lead to dramatic negative effect on innovation in development and sharing of applications, especially related to startup companies (Cook, 2014).

To sum up, through the principles of Utilitarianism we can say that the pleasure of having Net Neutrality wins over not having it. The pain of losing it is far greater than the pain of having it. This leads us to conclude that Utilitarian principles justify the FCC policy regarding Net Neutrality. We, as college student, ought to defend this policy and participate more in developing more innovative tools that are beneficial to society.


Bauer, J. M., & Obar, J. A. (2014). Reconciling Political and Economic Goals in the Net Neutrality Debate. Information Society, 30(1), 1-19. doi:10.1080/01972243.2013.856362 https://msu.edu/~bauerj/papers/bauer-obar-netneutrality-tis-2014.pdf

Cook, V. v. (2014). Net Neutrality: What Is It and Why Should Educators Care?. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(4), 46-49. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=ec268621-b4ec-4f1f-a21c-a742f8c1d871%40sessionmgr120

Mill, J. S. (2001). Utilitarianism (pp. 7-59). Kitchener, Ontario, Canada: Batoche Books. http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/mill/utilitarianism.pdf

Njoroge, P., Ozdaglar, A., Stier-Moses, N. E., & Weintraub, G. Y. (2013). Investment in Two-Sided Markets and the Net Neutrality Debate. Review Of Network Economics, 12(4), 355-402. doi:10.1515/rne-2012-0017 https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/rne.2013.12.issue-4/rne-2012-0017/rne-2012-0017.xml

Weisman, D. L. (2015). The Political Economy of Net Neutrality Regulation. Economists' Voice, 12(1), 13-18. doi:10.1515/ev-2015-0003 https://ideas.repec.org/a/bpj/evoice/v12y2015i1p13-18n1.html

High-Bandwidth Services

Services Uses
Video Streaming (Netflix) 41%
Music Streaming (Pandora) 33%
Video/Audio chat (Skype) 23%

Credit to pixabay.com