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Network Neutrality and the False Promise of Zero-Price Regulation

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  • Hemphill, C. Scott
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    Abstract

    This Article examines zero-price regulation, the major distinguishing feature of many modern "network neutrality" proposals. A zero-price rule prohibits a broadband Internet access provider from charging an application or content provider (collectively, "content provider") to send information to consumers. The Article differentiates two access provider strategies thought to justify a zero-price rule. Exclusion is anticompetitive behavior that harms a content provider to favor its rival. Extraction is a toll imposed upon content providers to raise revenue. Neither strategy raises policy concerns that justify implementation of a broad zero-price rule. First, there is no economic exclusion argument that justifies the zero-price rule as a general matter, given existing legal protections against exclusion. A stronger but narrow argument for regulation exists in certain cases in which the output of social producers, such as Wikipedia, competes with ordinary market-produced content. Second, prohibiting direct extraction is undesirable and counterproductive, in part because it induces costly and unregulated indirect extraction. I conclude, therefore, that recent calls for broad-based zero-price regulation are mistaken.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Regulation2point0 in its series Working paper with number 560.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:reg:wpaper:560

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    Web page: http://regulation2point0.org/

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    Cited by:
    1. Bauer, Johannes M. & Shim, Woohyun, 2012. "Regulation and digital innovation: Theory and evidence," 23rd European Regional ITS Conference, Vienna 2012 60364, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    2. Robin S. Lee & Tim Wu, 2009. "Subsidizing Creativity through Network Design: Zero-Pricing and Net Neutrality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(3), pages 61-76, Summer.
    3. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael L. Katz, 2009. "Information and the hold-up problem," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(3), pages 405-423.
    4. Au, Man Ho, 2011. "Network neutrality: Hong Kong's perspectives," 8th Asia-Pacific Regional ITS Conference, Taipei 2011: Convergence in the Digital Age 52338, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).

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