9th Workshop on Internet Economics

January 29th, 2019 by kc

On December 12-13, 2018, CAIDA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted the (invitation-only) 9th interdisciplinary Workshop on Internet Economics (WIE) at the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, CA.

The goal of this workshop series is to provide a forum for researchers, commercial Internet facilities and service providers, technologists, economists, theorists, policy makers, and other stakeholders to empirically inform emerging Internet regulatory and policy debates.

Presenters were asked to write talk abstracts on their presented topics, addressing four questions:

  1. What is the policy goal or fear you’re addressing?
  2. What data is needed to measure progress toward/away from this goal fear?
  3. What methods do you propose (or are) being used to gather such data?
  4. Who/how should such methods be executed, and the data shared, or not shared?

With a specific focus on measurement challenges, the topics we discussed included: analyzing the evolution of the Internet in a layered-platform context to gain new insights; measurement and analysis of economic impacts of new technologies using old tools; security and trustworthiness, reach (universal service) and reachability, sustainability of investment into public Internet infrastructure, as well as infrastructure to measure the public Internet.

Some of the takeaways from the workshop included:

  1. There is an expanding awareness that if policymakers hope to rely on academic or scientific research to inform policy, there will need to be increased accuracy and disclosure of data relevant to a given question. As the ecosystem evolves, required measurements/reporting could span from metrics such as security incidents; outages; broadband availability, cost, and pricing; cloud computing capacity and traffic; consumer usage patterns; how various parties in the ecosystem are using consumer data. Policymakers and academics must tie the need for these measurements to concrete harms that they would supporting monitoring or avoiding. There is also an increasing need to identify sustainable sources of funding for independent, open, trusted measurement of the Internet, and its communication to users and policy makers.
  2. One repeated “low fruit” suggestion was to require a programmatic API for accessing basic broadband service tier information, which would facilitate use of FCC MBA data, and also stimulate innovation of other measurement technology.
  3. The current theories and practices to deal with market concentration and antitrust are arguably failing to support the public policy needs of the IT space. The Internet ecosystem is distinctive with respect to speed of growth, mutation, amplification, prevalence of multi-sided markets, and network effects. Decisions about mergers and market concentration in multi-sided platform economics cannot rely on single-market metrics for evaluation.
  4. Increased data mining of consumers that allows perfect price discrimination may have the unintended effect of eroding the operation of capitalist markets, which depend on a degree of information symmetry.
  5. An important higher-level question is the character of the public space that is the Internet, how it is changing, and which actors have the power to influence that change. This is more important, but much more challenging to measure, than specific mechanisms such as routing or peering.
  6. The likelihood of federal regulation is increasing if only to mitigate the risk of dealing with a patchwork of state laws related to network management or piracy. The research community is in a position to inform regulation, and hopefully prevent poor regulations, as well as measure the impact of regulation (or at least what happens after regulation, since causation is difficult to establish). Measurement should be the foundation for a discourse about what would define good regulation. Actual data may be the best antidote to the current partisan divisiveness.

Geoff Huston (APNIC) wrote a commentary about the WIE workshop in his blog, the ISP Column: Internet Economics.

The final report on the WIE 2018 workshop is available online.

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