New Report Proposes "Third Way" on Network Neutrality

May 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation today proposed a “third way” solution to the heated debate over net neutrality.

Over the last several months, the debate over “network neutrality” has become increasingly polarized with both sides predicting the “end of the Internet” if Congress adopts the other side’s position. In a new report, ITIF President Rob Atkinson and University of Colorado Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications Phil Weiser argue that the current state of the network neutrality debate denies the reasonable concerns articulated by each side and obscures the contours of a sensible solution. In the new ITIF report, they outline those reasonable concerns, as well as the claims made by both sides of the debate that they believe are not factually correct or economically supportable. They then propose a three-part, “third way” solution that allows incumbent broadband providers to offer managed broadband services, provided that they also offer a basic and growing open, non-discriminatory “best-efforts” Internet pipe to broadband consumers.

First, they call on Congress to require broadband providers to state their broadband access and usage policies in clear terms. In addition, any firm selling “broadband Internet access” must make available a basic and growing level of open, unmanaged Internet access. Firms that do not meet this FCC-defined requirement would be prohibited from calling any of their services “broadband.”

Second, ITIF recommends that Congress provide financial incentives to companies investing in broadband networks (allowing first-year expensing of broadband investments and exempting broadband services from federal, state, and local taxation), but only if broadband providers offer their customers a best-efforts, open Internet “pipe” with speeds at least as fast as the evolving FCC definition.

Third, in order to ensure that broadband providers do not abuse their market power, Congress should charge the FCC with the responsibility of overseeing the use of discriminatory access arrangements to make sure that any such arrangements do not harm competition (and consumers). This “antitrust-like” approach would require that the FCC manage all relevant proceedings on an expedited basis and under an adjudicative model.


Through its research, policies proposals, and commentary, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is working to advance and support public policies that boost innovation, e-transformation and productivity. For additional information, visit ITIF at or contact Dr. Robert Atkinson at (202) 449-1351 or [email protected].