The Internet’s remarkable growth has been fueled by innovation. New applications continually enable new ways of using the Internet, and new physical networking technologies increase the range of networks over which the Internet can run. Questions about the relationship between innovation and the Internet’s architecture have shaped the debates over open access to broadband networks, network neutrality, nondiscriminatory network management, and future Internet architecture. In Internet Architecture and Innovation, Barbara van Schewick explores the economic consequences of Internet architecture, offering a detailed analysis of how it affects the economic environment for innovation.
Van Schewick describes the design principles on which the Internet’s original architecture was based — modularity, layering, and the end-to-end arguments — and shows how they shaped the original architecture. She analyzes in detail how the original architecture affected innovation — in particular, the development of new applications — and how changing the architecture would affect this kind of innovation.
Van Schewick concludes that the original architecture of the Internet fostered application innovation. Current changes that deviate from the Internet’s original design principles reduce the amount and quality of application innovation, limit users’ ability to use the Internet as they see fit, and threaten the Internet’s ability to realize its economic, social, cultural, and political potential. If left to themselves, network providers will continue to change the internal structure of the Internet in ways that are good for them but not necessarily for the rest of us. Government intervention may be needed to save the social benefits associated with the Internet’s original design principles.