New Report Argues a Mostly Open Internet Is Key Driver of Economic Growth and Societal Progress

December 16, 2019

WASHINGTON—As nations consider policies that restrict the openness of the Internet, a new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy, assesses the value of the open Internet and recommends that a “mostly” open Internet would most benefit society. The report finds that governments are increasingly restricting Internet openness in ways that harm economic growth.  The report recommends that policymakers maximize the benefits of Internet openness but while also maintaining carefully designed guardrails that reduce the Internet’s most clearly harmful uses.

“Too many nations dress up restrictive Internet policies as being in the public interest, when in fact, they only benefit a small set of powerful actors,” said ITIF Research Analyst Michael McLaughlin, co-author of the report. “Governments should ensure that any limitations they place on Internet openness don’t undermine economic growth, social progress, or human rights.”

To achieve a mostly open Internet, the report calls on policymakers to maximize openness for those activities that are universally regarded as good while limiting access to those activities universally regarded as bad, and simultaneously create the highest level of technical openness.

The report offers the following analytical framework to evaluate policies that affect Internet openness:

  • Governments should consider whether their policies violate any international agreements, regardless of how much they would benefit their nation.
  • Governments should limit policymaking to activities that do not create negative impacts beyond their borders, particularly if there is no international consensus on a particular policy goal.
  • Policymakers should determine whether policies increase or decrease the economic and social benefits of the Internet, and weigh them against the benefits of their policies.

“The open Internet is tremendously valuable, but too much openness can become a liability,” said ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro, co-author of the report. “The Internet has never been fully open—nor should it be. Policymakers should not shy away from reasonable policies to limit access to the Internet’s most harmful uses, but they should be cautious when limiting access to content and services that are not universally regarded as harmful.”

Read the report.