Internet connectivity economics. Architecture, conventions, community, by Uta Meier-Hahn
Doctoral dissertation (2019). Freie Universität Berlin
Jury : Jeanette Hofmann, Martin Gersch, Timo Braun, Leonhard Dobusch & Jörg Sydow
Abstract. Internet connectivity forms the basis of the digitally networked society. About twenty-five years after the onset of the commercial internet, this thesis explores the economics of internet interconnection. It explores the question of how network operators worldwide overcome the tension between cooperation and competition and jointly provide internet connectivity. For this purpose, this dissertation develops a cross-disciplinary research perspective. It puts the architecture of the internet, economic coordination and community structures between internet engineers into relation. Conceptually, the study draws on approaches from science and technology studies, economics of convention, and heterodox economics. Empirically, the study is based on interviews with network operators worldwide. Taken together, it can be shown that when it comes to internet connectivity economics, network operators are exposed to architectural uncertainties, which in turn induce the coexistence of market coordination (transit) and cooperative co-production (peering). In the co-production of connectivity economic equivalence is established without the medium of money. This explains to a large extent why product-centered quality conventions play a pivotal role in interconnection negotiations. The community of networkers forms an arena in which these quality conventions are negotiated and tested. This thesis also contributes a new order of worth to the economics of convention tradition. It is the quality convention of connectivity, in which internet connectivity is regarded as a commons worth protecting, whose provision serves the common good.