An Antitrust Analysis of the Case for Wireless Network Neutrality

Posted: 6 Oct 2010

See all articles by Mike Topper

Mike Topper

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Gregory L. Rosston

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Date Written: December 28, 2009


The ongoing debate about possible implementation of regulatory rules requiring ‘‘network neutrality’’ for wireless telecommunications services is inherently about whether to impose prohibitions on the ability of network operators to control their vertical relationships. Antitrust analysis is well suited to analyze whether a wireless network neutrality rule is socially beneficial. Implementing network neutrality rules would be akin to using a per se antitrust rule regarding vertical relationships instead of the rule of reason analysis typically applied to vertical relationships in antitrust. Per se rules are used to prevent actions that rarely, if ever, have any procompetitive benefits, such as price-fixing agreements. Rule of reason analysis is used when there are potential efficiency gains from the actions under investigation.

Some vertical practices of the wireless carriers, such as bandwidth restrictions, may appear to be anticompetitive, but may also have plausible efficiency justifications so should be judged under rule of reason analysis. Economic examination of the wireless industry shows significant competition between networks, which reduces the concern about vertical relationships, but also shows some areas that should be monitored by antitrust and regulatory authorities. We propose several regulatory changes that would likely increase wireless competition and lessen the perceived need for prophylactic network neutrality rules while at the same time allowing efficiency-enhancing vertical relationships.

Keywords: Mobile Wireless Competition, Network Neutrality, Vertical Restraints, Federal Communications Commission, Antitrust Policy

JEL Classification: L22, L42, L96

Suggested Citation

Topper, Mike and Rosston, Gregory L., An Antitrust Analysis of the Case for Wireless Network Neutrality (December 28, 2009). Information Economics and Policy, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Mike Topper

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Gregory L. Rosston (Contact Author)

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall at Galvez St.
Stanford, CA 94305-6015
United States

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