Repeat the same mistaken data enough times and people start believing it. If you're active in policy or a reporter and think any of these are accurate, please email me for primary sources. I'm writing this quick note because two respected groups just sent to me stuff I know is wrong.

There is a large, measurable cost to Internet shutdowns. If you can send your birthday gift a few days later or catch up two days of missed lessons, the Brookings report falls apart.

Connecting more people to the Internet has large economic benefits. Senior economists, including one now at Harvard, debunked this in 2009 in D.C. 

The Internet has no economic downsides. Tell that to the store owner who went broke because he couldn't compete with giant Amazon. About a third of the world's newspaper reporters lost their jobs. Almost all claims about "economic benefits" leave out the negative.

False Claims about Internet Benefits

If any of this is wrong, please email me. In particular, if you find solid primary data that says otherwise, please send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I make many mistakes, as the butler said.

Cost of economic shutdowns. "Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year," writes Darrell West of Brookings. He takes (inflated) estimates of the economic contribution of the Internet and divides them by the number of days the net is out. As he acknowledged when I asked, he includes activities that could be performed just as well the next day, saying he doesn't know how to measure them. I would guess his figure should be reduced by 70-90%. At the minimum, the work should be corrected to prominently indicate his figure is not an accurate measure of the cost. He hasn't corrected the error despite three requests. The Deloitte work has a similar problem.

Connecting more people to the Internet has large economic benefits. Ask yourself: Is checking Facebook, glancing at the news, and watching porn, or looking up a recipe likely to have a big economic effect. Those are the kind of things most people do on the net. Those get computer science degrees 8,000 miles away from Georgia Tech are a small minority.

Video calling your mother 12,000 miles away is a good thing. So is relieving the tedium of housebound elderly with video and things to read. Organizing everything from bowling leagues to political protests is much easier. Maybe reading Net Policy News is a good thing. 

The total economic impact seems to be too small to measure in the most careful studies. I've earned my living since 1999 writing about the Internet and wish there was a big economic benefit. It's not in the data.

Anyone with common sense can see that growth has fallen most places despite a remarkable increase in Internet users. Productivity plummeted after 2005 as the worldwide Internet growth accelerated. Just one example: India, one of the fastest growing economies, has lagged far behind in Internet use until the last year or two.

The many claims otherwise, when examined, range from statistically weak to total garbage. Nearly all the positive claims do not account for a likely confounding variable: investors in broadband networks are usually not stupid. They will build where the economic prospects are most attractive, such as areas likely to grow fast.

The dozen+ I've checked ignore basic statistical principles. This shouldn't be surprising. Stanford Professor Ioannidis founded about half the work in leading medical journals didn't hold up. His now classic 2005 paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, is an inspiration for evidence-based medicine. We need evidenced-based policy as well. 

Shane Greenstein, now at Harvard, did a study that concluded then prominent claims of benefit had to be reduced by about 90%. He presented the work at a Columbia event in D.C. where Bob Crandall & Scott Wallsten generally agreed. A 2016 World Bank report should have put this to rest. "The Internet has not resulted in successful development. ... The broader benefits of higher growth, more jobs, and better services have fallen short." 

I could go on nearly forever and have at great length over a decade. The will to believe - and financial interests - keeps this bs going.

There are no downsides to the Internet. Most of us agree that on balance the Internet is a good thing. I strongly support expanding it. But when you try to measure the impact, you must include both the positive and many negative factors. Store clerks lose their jobs to e-commerce; reporters to news outlets on the web; radiologists in the U.S. report an income drop as cheaper doctors in India read more xrays. 

Columbia Professor Raul Katz is one of the few to have incorporated both upsides and downsides in his work. In a 2009 work, he began by acknowledging we don't have accurate measures for many factors. He built seven different scenarios for the return on investing in broadband infrastructure based on different assumptions. 

One of the seven scenarios actually found a economic decline with broadband because so much commerce and so many jobs left the territory. I think one of the positive scenarios is more likely but neither Raul nor I have seen enough data to be confident.

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,