Assessing the Costs of a More “Closed” Internet

Robert D. Atkinson October 2, 2015
October 2, 2015

How to better measure the benefits of the open Internet and the costs of restricting access to it are a critical questions because a growing number of governments around the world are blocking Internet flows or prohibiting access to certain content, writes Rob Atkinson in Innovation Files. There needs to be a stronger case for how, why, and to what extent these policies stunt economic growth and inhibit social progress. Yet marshaling such an argument requires not only better data and analysis but also the right conceptual framework. Perhaps the most important question to be decided in crafting a research agenda on this issue is whether the focus should be on the benefits of openness or on harms that come from “closed-ness.” Defining the open Internet as “the Internet” does little to answer how a more open Internet or a more closed Internet are different.  So the focus should instead be on the costs of particular types of “closed” policies. The advantage of taking the “costs of being closed” approach is that the things to be measured are much narrower and more manageable, and therefore more likely to provide solid evidence to push back against particular types of “closed” policies.