Section: New Results

Network Economics

Participants : Bruno Tuffin, Patrick Maillé.

The general field of network economics, analyzing the relationships between all acts of the digital economy, has been an important subject for years in the team.

In 2019, we have had a particular focus on network neutrality issues, but trying to look at them from original perspectives, and investigating so-called grey zones not yet addressed in the debate.

What implications of a global Internet with neutral and non-neutral portions? Network neutrality is being discussed worldwide, with different countries applying different policies, some imposing it, others acting against regulation or even repealing it as recently in the USA. The goal of [43] is to model and analyze the interactions of users, content providers, and Internet service providers (ISPs) located in countries with different rules. To do so, we build a simple two-regions game-theoretic model and focus on two scenarios of net neutrality relaxation in one region while it remains enforced in the other one. In a first scenario, from an initial situation where both regions offer the same basic quality, one region allows ISPs to offer fast lanes for a premium while still guaranteeing the basic service; in a second scenario the ISPs in both regions play a game on quality, with only one possible quality in the neutral region, and two in the non-neutral one but with a regulated quality ratio between those. Our numerical experiments lead to very different outcomes, with the first scenario benefiting to all actors (especially the ones in the relaxed-neutrality region) and the second one mainly benefiting mostly to ISPs while Content Providers are worse off, suggesting that regulation should be carefully designed.

Investigating a grey zone: sponsored data. Sponsored data, where content providers have the possibility to pay wireless providers for the data consumed by customers and therefore to exclude it from the data cap, is getting widespread in many countries, but is forbidden in others for concerns of infringing the network neutrality principles. We present in [44] a game-theoretic model analyzing the consequences of sponsored data in presence of competing wireless providers, where sponsoring decided by the content provider can be different at each provider. We also discuss the impact on the proportion of advertising on the displayed content. We show that, surprisingly, the possibility of sponsored data may actually reduce the benefits of content providers and on the other hand increase the revenue of ISPs in competition, with a very limited impact on user welfare.

Search engines, bias, consensus, and search neutrality debate. Different search engines provide different outputs for the same keyword. This may be due to different definitions of relevance, and/or to different knowledge/anticipation of users' preferences, but rankings are also suspected to be biased towards own content, which may prejudicial to other content providers. In [41], we make some initial steps toward a rigorous comparison and analysis of search engines, by proposing a definition for a consensual relevance of a page with respect to a keyword, from a set of search engines. More specifically, we look at the results of several search engines for a sample of keywords, and define for each keyword the visibility of a page based on its ranking over all search engines. This allows to define a score of the search engine for a keyword, and then its average score over all keywords. Based on the pages visibility, we can also define the consensus search engine as the one showing the most visible results for each keyword. We have implemented this model and present an analysis of the results in [41].