Third Workshop on Internet Economics (WIE2012)

April 19th, 2013 by kc

As part of our NSF-funded network research project on modeling Internet interconnection dynamics, David Clark (MIT) and I hosted the second Workshop on Internet Economics (WIE2012) last December 12-13. The goal of the workshop was to provide a forum for researchers, commercial Internet facilities and service providers, technologists, economists, theorists, policy makers, and other stakeholders to empirically inform emerging regulatory and policy debates. The theme for this year’s workshop was “Definitions and Data”. The final report describes the discussions and presents relevant open research questions identified by workshop participants. Slides presented at the workshop are available at the workshop home page. From the intro (but the full report (6-page pdf) is worth reading):

Building on the success of our first two workshops in this series [WIE09,WIE11], we held the 3rd Workshop on Internet Economics (WIE). The theme for this year’s workshop was “Definitions and Data”, motivated by our sense that many of the debates today about effective regulation are clouded by lack of clarity about terms and concepts, and lack of real information about the current state of the communications infrastructure. Concepts that have resisted clean definition include network neutrality, reasonable network management, market power, and reliability. Stakeholders disagree on fundamental parameters of central concepts in the industry, such as interconnection, or the metrics for broadband quality itself.

Equally missing is good data on what is actually happening. Whether measurements are undertaken by the FCC, as with the current SamKnows effort, or by the research community or industry, good definition must precede good measurement, because collectively we must be consistent and clear what we are proposing to measure and why. A guiding premise of this workshop was that attention to definitions can inform research in data gathering, which in turn can inform regulatory debate. Workshop discussions also focused on the impacts of the limitations of currently available data (such as undersampling) and how to gain more relevant data with minimal impact on personal privacy.

The workshop format focused discussion around six pre-selected topics: defining broadband (wired and wireless); Interconnection; definitions and metrics of market power; the emergence of private IP networks; regulatory distinctions in a converged world; and defining acceptable practice for data-gathering. We spent about two hours per topic, with at least two 10-minute talks followed by an hour for each discussion. Three promising future research directions emerged. First, we reached rough consensus on a proposed practical approach to measure a user’s “quality of experience” (QoE), one that could frame not only a stable definition of broadband Internet service but also enable more rigorous description of “willingness to pay” for different applications. Second, most participants agreed that the rise of private IP networks as an alternative platform to the public Internet (and to the economically unsustainable PSTN) promise an even more opaque future at a time when it has become clear that much of current communications regulation lacks empirical basis. Third, there was recognition that both scientific research and sound public policy share the need to develop, maintain, and archive some classic data sets to develop some sense of history and to inform general models of network behavior. One possible goal for a future workshop is try articulate an argument for data that might be valuable in the future, not only to support specific policy questions but also to begin to establish historical baselines and promote scientific inquiry. More formal and transparent ties between policymakers and researchers could frame ethical use of such data.

Subsequent sections of the report are:
2. Regulatory Distinctions Amid Convergence
3. Defining Broadband
4. Defining Market Power
5. Interconnection
6. The Emergence of Private IP Networks
7. Acceptable Practices for Data-gathering
8. Future Research Directions

Full report:
Other materials from workshop:
Feedback welcome. Thanks to all who participated.

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