Lesson 6: Is Net Neutrality Free Speech or Monopoly Abuse?
This one-day lesson taps into the infrastructure of communication, and specifically the internet, to explore the economic effects of Net Neutrality laws in the United States. Students will explore the economic concepts of monopolies, bundling, and anti-trust regulation as well as constitutional ideas such as freedom of speech to analyze the effects of altering or loosening net neutrality restrictions on normal consumers, infrastructure providers (Internet Service Providers in this case), large online sites like Google, Amazon, etc., smaller online retailers and the like. The lesson is designed to take roughly 50-60 minutes, though can be extended through in class research looking into the actual FCC decisions and court cases surrounding the net neutrality debate. This extension is also a possible homework assignment as a follow up to the class. This lesson works well following the “Natural Monopoly” lesson in the sequence. However, it can also function as a stand-alone lesson.
Students should be able to do the following at the end of the lesson:
- Define key terms: Network neutrality, utility company
- Explain how net neutrality relates to monopoly power (namely natural monopolies as discussed in the previous lesson).
- Explain how net neutrality will effect various users and industries.
- Opening discussion question.
- Read handout about net neutrality: go over definition of net neutrality and define key terms.
- Pair discussion surrounding arguments in favor and against net neutrality.
- Go over answers as a class.
- Role play showing perspectives of each group affected by net neutrality
- After completing role play, research the actual outcome of the net neutrality debate by simply doing a basic internet search for news on net neutrality.
The design, development, validation and publication of these infrastructure teaching modules was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Grant #1334292, and the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. All opinions and conclusions expressed in this paper reflect the views of the author/s, and not necessarily the views of these sponsors.