Net Neutrality

Net neutrality issues have been the center of a worldwide Internet policy debate during the past decade, which has the potential to fundamentally alter the dynamics of providing and consuming online content. Both in the U.S. and in Europe recently new regulatory frameworks on net neutrality were adopted, which limit the network providers freedom in choosing their network management practices, but also remain vague with respect to the fine line that delineates neutral from non-neutral practices.

In our recent research commentary (Easley et al. in press), we present a classification of the many network management practices that can affect the consumers’ Quality of Service on the internet, articulating whether they would be considered network neutral, while focusing on the particular question of who pays for any incremental improvements.

We discuss and categorize the various issues and key trade-offs that are still being debated in the context of net neutrality, and identify open research questions in this domain. Based on these insights, we argue that net neutrality, which is concerned with a gatekeeper at the infrastructure level, may just be part of a larger debate on data neutrality, where the gatekeeper may rather control a software platform. We provide several examples of potential data neutrality issues and generalize the key trade-offs in the context of a proposed four-step framework for identifying and organizing promising research areas on data neutrality.


Robert F. Easley, Hong Guo, and Jan Krämer (authors in alphabetical order). In press. “From net neutrality to data neutrality: A techno-economic framework and research agenda,” Information Systems Research. SSRN

Hong Guo, Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay, Arthur Lim, Yu-Chen Yang, and Hsing Kenneth Cheng. 2017. “Effects of competition among Internet service providers and content providers on the net neutrality debate,” MIS Quarterly, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp. 353-370.

Hong Guo and Robert F. Easley. 2016. “Network neutrality versus paid prioritization: Analyzing the impact on content innovation,” Production and Operations Management, Volume 25, Issue 7, pp. 1261-1273.

Hong Guo, Hsing Kenneth Cheng, and Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay. 2013. “Broadband network management and the net neutrality debate,” Production and Operations Management, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp. 1287-1298.

Hong Guo, Hsing Kenneth Cheng, and Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay. 2012. “Net neutrality, broadband market coverage, and innovations at the edge,” Decision Sciences, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp. 141-172.

Hsing Kenneth Cheng, Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay, and Hong Guo. 2011. “The debate on net neutrality: A policy perspective,” Information Systems Research, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp. 60-82.

Hong Guo, Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay, Hsing Kenneth Cheng, and Yu-Chen Yang. 2010. “Net neutrality and vertical integration of content and broadband services,” Journal of Management Information Systems, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp. 243-275.