Stanford Engineers Propose a Technology to Break the Net Neutrality Deadlock

Stanford Engineers Propose a Technology to Break the Net Neutrality Deadlock

Published By: Stanford News, 9/13/2016

>> View the Article <<


The debate over net neutrality has largely focused on whether Internet service providers should allow some content providers to negotiate faster/cheaper access to their content for users. This article describes a prototyped system that would allow users to designate which content they want to special access to. Net neutrality has been seen as a digital divide issue; wide adoption of a user-choice system would change the parameters in that debate.

Note: Fully understanding the potential impact of this innovation requires some understanding of the debate over net neutrality. However, it is also relevant in terms of the individual economic trade-offs we make with respect to online access.

Extended Discussion Questions:


  • If you could choose certain apps or websites to load faster on your computer or not count against your data allowance on your phone [if students mostly have phones], which would those be?
    • Why would you choose those apps and sites?
    • Do you think they’re the same apps or sites other people would pick?
    • Are they provided by big companies or small companies?
  • Are there any ways this technology could make online access less convenient?

Net Neutrality/Digital Divide:

  • The article suggests the new system as a potential solution to the problem of net neutrality. Why do you think people are concerned about this issue?
  • Why do you think some people see net neutrality as related to the “digital divide” between individuals and communities with different economic resources?
    • Prompt: If you could only afford a small data plan, would you use the app you preferred, or the app that didn’t count against your data allowance?
  • Could this technology help to reduce the digital divide? If so, how?
    • What are the limitations?
  • Other people view net neutrality as an issue of fairness: whether it’s fairer to allow ISPs to offer access deals to big content providers, or to protect small content providers that can’t afford such deals. Do you think this new technology resolves those issues? Is it inherently fair?

Related Articles

“Neutral Net Neutrality”
Yiannis Yiakoumis, Sachin Katti, and Nick McKeown, published in Proceedings of SIGCOMM, 8/2016 || View the Article
The original research article explains additional details of the technology and how it could play out in payment plans. It also describes how the authors think the system could be useful under different regulatory scenarios.

“What Is Net Neutrality and What Does It Mean for Me?”
Published By: USA Today, 2/27/2015 || View the Article
Provides an accessible summary of the Net Neutrality debate.

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.4.1A The innovation and impact of social media and online access varies in different countries and in different socioeconomic groups.
  • EK 7.4.1C The global distribution of computing resources raises issues of equity, access, and power.
  • EK 7.4.1D Groups and individuals are affected by the “digital divide” — differing access to computing and the Internet based on socioeconomic or geographic characteristics.

Other CSP Big Ideas:

  • Idea 6 The Internet

Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Crop 2”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0

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