The Digital Divide and Other Economic Considerations for Network Neutrality
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In its 2016 Broadband Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recognizes that a rural/urban digital divide remains prevalent—especially with respect to broadband adoption. It also highlights several policies that the FCC has undertaken purportedly to reduce the divide, including the 2015 Open Internet Order (OIO)—in which the stated intent is to enforce “network neutrality.” However, long before the OIO, studies have raised concerns that network neutrality policies will discourage investment by internet service providers (ISPs) in broadband infrastructure, to the detriment of broadband accessibility, and may increase average consumer costs—both of which would only further exacerbate the digital divide. In this paper, we provide a holistic analysis of the effects of net neutrality on the digital divide; in doing so, we draw from recent economic research on this issue. Our goal is to present a range of economic considerations that should be taken into account when evaluating the overall impact of the OIO, with particular attention to its impact on the digital divide.
KeywordsNet neutrality Internet service providers Content service providers Digital divide Telecommunications Regulation Open Internet Order Welfare FCC Broadband
JEL ClassificationL96 L98 L51 K23
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