Internet Infrastructure and Regulation

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April 17

In this class, we will cover the politics, policy, economics and technology of deploying broadband infrastructure. We will look at the year-old US National Broadband Plan and the Berkman Center review of international experiences in broadband policy. Additionally, we will look at the substance and politics of the net neutrality debate.

Slides (PDF)


Assignment 4 due


  • Executive Summary of the National Broadband Plan [1]
  • National Broadband Plan Commission Meeting: National Purposes Update, February 18th 2010 [2]
  • Next Generation Connectivity: A review of broadband Internet transitions and policy from around the world, Berkman Center [3]
  • Net Neutrality 101 [4]
  • More Confusion about Internet Freedom [5]
  • Hands Off the Internet [6]

Optional Readings

Class Discussion

April 17: Internet Infrastructure and Regulation Just Johnny 17:13, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

Interesting article in Slate that's basically a profile of "_why" (a well known programmer/sort of folk hero in that online community before he disappeared off the web one day) but also goes into the problem of of the "Little Coder's Predicament" quite a bit since that was one of the main things _why was interested in. That predicament is the lack of accessibility to the code behind the devices we use so often; it is incredibly easy and intuitive to play Angry Birds on your phone or use Excel on your laptop, but hard (and getting harder) to learn how to access and manipulate the code that creates and alters those sorts of programs.

This is an issue that has come up quite a bit in class, and I thought the author does a good job of explaining some neat tools for the layman to use to get into programming. The article is a fun read and touches on a lot of issues of public v. private online, identity online, the importance of being a creator and not just a consumer, etc. Thought you all might enjoy! -AlexLE 22:37, 16 April 2012 (UTC)

Off topic for this week's class but I saw this article hit the Washington Post and thought it was an interesting read for those interested in Copyright and internet sales. --Hds5 18:21, 16 April 2012 (UTC)

This week's readings brings up an interesting point on national safety. Government agencies other organizations could stand to do a better job notifying the public via the internet when national disasters arise. In times of disaster, notifying the public via internet alerts seems like a very efficient way to spread information quickly. -- [[ --Szakuto 11:57, 17 April 2012 (UTC)]]

This week’s articles were like always very interesting and thought-stimulating. I really enjoyed reading the first article concerning broadband and the US government’s plan back in 2009 to make it accessible to all Americans. Even though many criticized the fact that at the time 100 million Americans didn’t have broadband, we must not forget the huge improvements that took place in the last two decades. I personally grew up with no broadband and with a computer which would run Windows 3.1 so from the ‘80s until now I personally see a huge improvement and I believe it is just a matter of time that the whole world will have broadband and at that point a newer technology will become available. The second article was by far the most fascinating. I had recently watched a documentary on technological advances and healthcare, and how easy it would be to do most things via internet like sending results and interacting with doctors. For what concerns education, I believe we have started making some good progress only recently and not very many institutions offer online learning. Homeland Security is definitely the most important aspect which we should invest in, in my opinion and we are far behind many of our European and Asian colleagues. The third article is exactly what I was talking about in terms of future technological advancements and it explains both plans and practices of countries other than the United States. The article on Net Neutrality was also pretty interesting and it perfectly explained its purpose in a simplistic way, which is appreciated by someone like myself who isn’t exactly a computer expert. The article on Internet Freedom has a very amusing title and I must say it is perfect for that topic. I still think it is very difficult to talk about internet freedom and government intrusion and I believe we will still be talking about this in the near future. The YouTube video about Hands Off the Internet was again in my opinion an amusing and simple way of portraying and conveying a message and I believe this to be a good way of doing so. Overall Governmental intrusion is and will be a serious and durable debate in the future. Emanuele 13:36, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

The articles for this week certainly brings to light the relationship between the government and broadband providers, and government’s particular interests in expanding and regulating broadband. I found Thierer’s article on these regulations to be interesting, particularly when he indicates that “we shouldn’t allow the cyber-collectivists to sell us their version of “freedom” in which markets are instead constantly reshaped through incessant regulatory interventions.” It is always nice to see this age-old political argument spill over into broadband management. Certainly the government takes the internet seriously and I think that their overlying effort to make broadband accessible to everyone is noble back in 2009. As the internet has shaped our lives in many different ways, it would be hard to imagine having no access to the internet. I do agree with the point that the internet has certainly improved by leaps and bounds over the years.--Jimmyh 16:51, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Emanuel, the Hands Off video and the Net Neutrality website explain in a very simple way what’s going on with the Internet; I enjoyed both of them. Also I think it is true that the Corporations and “Save the Internet” campaign want the government to take control of the Internet. The main net neutrality issues then are who should control the Internet: the people, or the government? And who should pay: the big corporations, or us?

The articles were also very interesting and touched important themes. The Broadband Plan article mentions that the broadband plan will improve the healthcare system, the energy and environment, and the education system. I think we have all experienced the benefits of improvements on technology, not too far our distance class is possible due to technology enhancement. As the article states, this creates economic opportunity, and government performance and civic engagement. With regard to the former, I like the idea that it would make the government more open and transparent! And with the latter that it will increase public safety and homeland security. In this way it is very important the broadband for mobile devices. Also it will ensure patients to have control over their healthcare data; I specially like this one because one day I went to have some health tests in my country and within a few days I could access them via the Internet.

The presentation on the Broadband Plan was very specific in showing the gaps that prevent the most efficient usage of the broadband. It also provided a framework of recommendations for each area in which broadband is used, and the potential savings achieved. Also, I like the idea that better technology will allow us to help prevent traffic accidents and potentially save energy. I think we still have a lot of work to do but in the long-term I’m positive these improvements will be possible.

Finally, in the Berkam Center article, it is very interesting the approach used, in which learning from other countries like Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and South Korea was the center of the study. What I most liked from this article was the idea that the next generation broadband user experience is built upon not only the deployment of high capacity networks, but also the creation of ubiquitous seamless connectivity. This is because we are now experiencing more availability of connectivity, but quality, speed and more places with Wi-Fi are still matters of improvement.Fabiancelisj 17:10, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

I really enjoyed reading the Net Neutrality website, simple, clean and easy to understand. Net Neutrality topic has been an interest to me, especially after Comcast declared that their new Xfinity Xbox app will not count toward your 250GB/month cap. This is one example of how ISP are about to control the internet content. While they are not exactly controlling it now, counting every app on xbox against your cap except their own xfinity app is exact definition of net neutrality, thus driving consumer demand into their own product as more and more people are not willing to reach their monthly cap or go above it. Recently, Netflix CEO spoke against Comcast on this issue:

Hands Off video was also interesting to watch with simple explanations for those who are yet to read up on these issues. Also, first article on National Broadband Plan is very interesting indeed, with some interesting plans that US wants to implement but I think the plan is a bit too optimistic. Providing every home with extremely fast broadband is not only hard to achieve but also hard to imagine that ISPs won't have to say anything against it. ISPs are always finding a way to get the most money by providing the slowest speed possible and I'm not too sure they will be very happy with a plan like that. While the article states that US is far behind many other advanced countries in terms of broadband speed, lets not forget that US is far bigger country with much bigger population than let's say South Korea so providing same kind of speed is not very easy. Also, ISPs in US also have a bigger word in terms of broadband in US, when compared to ISPs in other countries. While the plan laid out in National Broadband Plan is great, it is also hard to achieve in currect time with current ISPs and laws. Erzhik 18:20, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

Agree with comment directly above. First thing that comes to mind when reading about net neutrality were this week's quotes by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Comcast internet data throttling. I think actions like those occuring under Comcast give more control to certain companies in power and take away power from the consumer. Is this an anti-competitive practice? Will it lead to worse actions? Would like to hear other opinions on this. Brendanlong 18:17, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

I think a big threat to net neutrality has to do with cell phone providers. With more and more people accessing the internet from their iPhones, blackberries, etc., cell phone companies can severely limit web content. Zittrain has a lot to say about smartphone censorship. I second Brendan's questions. My opinion is that it could be anti-competitive. Thoughts? Aberg 18:55, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

@Aberg, I had a different experience with smart phone web access. I think it is interesting that when I attempted to post on Facebook the “Save the Internet” link by clicking the “share” button from the link provided in the class readings, I was asked to close the tab on Internet Explorer. I tried sharing the same link using Google Chrome and also failed. When I searched for the “Save the Internet” group on Facebook, I was unable to open the link to the group. Perhaps, this is due to blocking by Verizon internet service when I tried to access the links from my laptop. However, I did not encounter these problems when I tried to access the same links using my phone with T-Mobile’s wireless internet service. Qdang 19:53, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

I found that the article, "More Confusion About Internet Freedom," raised a particularly poignant question: "The question is how much faith we should place in central planners, as opposed to evolutionary market forces, to solve that problem." By "that problem," the article is referring to "freedom for the government to plan more and for policymakers to more closely monitor and control the Internet economy." Indeed it a difficult line to draw when many entrepreneurs can be hadnsomely compensated for creating Internet innovations that can capture valuable user data and demographic information. On the other hand, it is also difficult to see how large governments will practice the self-restraint not to overregulate the Internet. Technology is rapidly evolving and government and legislation must keep up, but it cannot come at the expense of expression and free markets. Cfleming27 19:58, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

It seems like this question has come up before, or even many times in history: Is a good to trade freedom for security? I think it was one of the founding fathers of the U.S. who said “no!” If not, it could have been the founding father of somewhere, in other words, a wise person. The problem is not that security and some control is bad, but rather that it is humans and a human system who manipulate the situation, and there are definitely ill-intentioned people who are prone to manipulate the system. In that case, the protection is to not put the system in any one central authority’s hands. People who work in positions of power are often well intentioned, but also misguided. It’s not always some stereotyped sinister fiend who is planning to do us all wrong, say like, Boris and Natasha in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. Often it is the “nice guy” with the kids next door, the ones who go to the same school as yours. People can become misguided by a false sense of patriotism, and play right into being used by others who want them to think they are doing the right thing. There are obviously some people up to something, or there wouldn’t continue to be attempts to pass a law here, sneak a little unknown regulation in there, or otherwise fool the public. When anyone says anything, they are decried as cracked “conspiracy theorists” and dangerous. I think it’s a spin off of what Lessig referred to as the bovinity principle. Can there exist some form of democracy, capitalism, and socialism, all mixed together, in just the right proportions, where governmental control could be appropriately exerted in truly the best interests of all, when needed, yet, with checks and balances? It think that was the general idea, when the U.S. started.Mike 13:00, 18 April 2012 (EDT)

Links from Class