Scott Jordan
Department of Computer Science University of California, Irvine
  Net Neutrality Case Study

Net Neutrality concerns, among many aspects, whether and on what basis Internet traffic can be prioritized. There are many sides to this issue, and the folks arguing do not even agree on the definition of Net Neutrality. See the wikipedia entry on Net Neutrality for an overview, but beware that it does not represent all views.

The FCC recently passed net neutrality regulations. The regulations contain a number of provisions. In this case study, we only consider the "no throttling" rule that is part of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. Specifically, your role is to decide whether some service plans offered by mobile broadband Internet access service providers violate the "no throttling" rule.

Net neutrality is the hottest current Internet public policy debate. It is likely that these regulations will be revisited by the FCC. In addition, Congress continues to debate the issue.

Here are materials to prepare for the case study:

  • My slides from lecture.
  • Read the Congressional Research Service's The Net Neutrality Debate: Access to Broadband Networks to get an introduction to Net Neutrality and the issues surrounding it. These reports were prepared for members of Congress to learn about the issue.
  • Read parts of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order, which implements regulations. Read the justification for creating regulations on pages 3-7, and an executive summary of the rules on pages 7-12. The provision we will focus on is the "no throttliung" rule, which is discussed on pages 51-53, and the "reasonable network management" exception, which is discussed on pages 99-104. You can find the FCC commissioners' arguments for and against the Order on pages 314-400.
  • Carefully read the mobile broadband providers' explanations of their network practices:

Here are links to media coverage:

Here are links to a few lobbyist arguments:

If you are a Lobbyist:

  • Pretend that someone has petitioned the FCC that one or more of these mobile broandband plans violates the throttling rule. You are trying to convince the FCC of your position. Your classmates are FCC Commissioners.
  • You should argue for or against the complaint. "Net neutrality Pro" means you should argue that one or more of these mobile broandband plans violates the "no throttling" rule and that the network practice does not constitute "reasonable network management". "Net neutrality Con" means you should argue none of these mobile broandband plans violates the "no throttling" rule and/or that the practices do constitute "reasonable network management".
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Don't assume that the FCC Commissioners know what the issue is or what your position is.
  • Present your most persuasive arguments in the most powerful manner you can. However, be accurate.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • What types of video are affected? Streaming? Video file downloads?
    • What is the effect of the network practice upon affected video? How is this effectuated?
    • Is this a reasonable way to manage video traffic?
  • Economic questions:
    • Does the network practice reduce the cost of the service? If so, is this cost passed on to subscribers?
    • Is the purpose of the practice to increase profit?
    • When plan options charge for not implementing the practice, is the charge reasonable?
  • Public policy questions:
    • Do the offering of such plans increase or decrease the welfare of the public?

If you are a Staffer:

  • Recomend how your FCC Commissioner should vote.
  • You can argue that he or she should vote that all of these mobile broandband plans violate the "no throttling" rule and that the network practice does not constitute "reasonable network management", that none of these mobile broandband plans violates the "no throttling" rule and/or that the practices do constitute "reasonable network management", or that some are ok and other are not ok.
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Assume that the class has heard the Lobbyist arguments.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • Given your vote recommendation, which types of network practices affecting video would be allowed and which would not be allowed?
  • Economic questions:
    • Given your vote recommendation, what types of plans could subscribers choose from?
  • Public policy questions:
    • How do "opt-in" or "opt-out" provisions affect your recommendation?
    • How do the range of plans offered affect your recommendation?
Scott Jordan last modified April 3, 2017 UCICSNetworked Systems