The Broadband Internet (COMN 4520)

THE ELECTRONIC INFORMATION NETWORK MARKETPLACE

COMN 4520: Summer 2019

version 1.0 (topics and readings subject to change)

Course description

This course is devoted to understanding the global public Internet and the role it plays in our daily lives. We examine the subject from two main perspectives: the technologies that make the Internet run; and the social issues that arise from our increasingly heavy reliance on networked services and content.

Our approach is evidence-based. We consider factual and quasi-factual information from a range of sources, such as regulatory decisions, survey research and market forecasts. The goal is to develop a critical framework for assessing the competing claims of actors in the communications industry, including vertically integrated incumbents, edge providers, public agencies and consumer advocates. The course follows current events closely. No prior technical knowledge is required — just a willingness to work hard at understanding new material.

By taking this course, you can expect to:

  • Appreciate how ditching your phone will boost your grades 
  • Learn what makes the Internet an engineering marvel besides Instagram
  • Keep up with current events in the tech industry
  • Learn why you should protect your online privacy
  • Understand how fundamentals like network neutrality affect you
  • Develop a meaningful perspective on the CRTC
  • Get tough on your ISP
  • Receive detailed feedback on your writing

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Course downloads (pdf)

Full syllabus (inc course rules & stylesheet): May 2, 2019 (v.1.1)

The good layout

TCP/IP ppt

Class slidedecks

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Required readings

They’re called “required” readings because all students are required to read them, and to do so by the stipulated deadline. In order to encourage timely coverage of the course materials, students keep an official notebook containing their reading and discussion notes, vetted regularly by the instructor. The readings are all available online in html or as pdf downloads. We supplement the core readings with contextual material drawn from other online sources, notably Benton’s Communications-related Headlines, which requires a free subscription. 

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Weekly Outline & Reading Schedule

Mon Apr 29 (#1) — Orientation: course structure, grading scheme, student responsibilities

A. The backstory (3)

Wed May 1 (#2) — The engineering culture wars (1/3) 

Reading (R1): Steve G. Steinberg (1996), “Netheads vs Bellheads,” Wired

Mon May 6 (#3) — When stupid is smart (2/3)

Reading (R2): David Isenberg (1997), “The Dawn of the Stupid Network”

Wed May 8 (#4) — The engineering culture wars redux (3/3)

Reading (R3): Andrew L. Russell (2006), “’Rough Consensus and Running Code’ and the Internet-OSI Standards War” (pdf)

B. How the Internet works (7)

Mon May 13 (#5) The TCP/IP protocol suite (1/3) 

Reading (R4): Charles Severance (2012), videos #1-3 – Overview (25 min), Link layer (10 min), Internetwork layer (38 min)

Wed May 15 (#6) — The TCP/IP protocol suite (2/3)

Reading (R5): Severance videos #4-6 – Transport layer (15 min), Security layer (23 min), Application layer (26 min)

Mon May 20 — Victoria Day — no class

Wed May 22 (#7) — Global IP traffic, 2017-2022 [change]

Reading: Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017–2022 (pdf)

Mon May 27 (#8) — Broadband access: your ISP and the last mile (1/2)

Reading (R6): Kevin Werbach (Jan 2015), The Development of Fixed Broadband Networks, OECD (pdf)

Wed May 29 (#9) — Broadband access: your ISP and the last mile (2/2)

Reading (R6): Werbach, The Development of Fixed Broadband Networks

Mon June 3 (#10) — Peering & transit: network interconnection trends (1/2)

Reading (R7): Wikipedia entry on peering

Wed June 5 (#11) — Peering & transit: network interconnection trends (2/2)

Reading (R7): Wikipedia entry on peering

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C. The open Internet & network neutrality (4)

Mon June 10 (#12) — The CRTC experiments with net neutrality (1/2)

Reading (R9): CRTC (Oct 2009), Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-657: Review of the Internet traffic management practices of Internet service providers (pdf)

Wed June 12 — Reading Week — No Class

Mon June 17 (#13) – The CRTC experiments with net neutrality (2/2)

Reading (R9): CRTC Telecom Regulatory Policy 2009-657

Wed June 19 (#14) – Zero rating and why “free” is not neutral (1/2)

Reading (R10): Intervention of CMCRP to CRTC proceeding on differential pricing (June 2016, CRTC 2016-192) — There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch: Historical and international perspectives on why common carriage should be a cornerstone of communications policy in the Internet age (pdf)

Mon June 24 (#15) — Zero rating and why “free” is not neutral (2/2)

Reading (R10): Intervention of CMCRP to CRTC proceeding on differential pricing

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D. The online privacy crisis (7)

Wed June 26 (#16) — Facebook and the zero-privacy business model (1/2)

Reading (R11): Nicholas Thompson, Fred Vogelstein (April 2019), “15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook,” Wired

Mon July 1 – Canada Day – no class

Wed July 3 (#17) – Facebook and the zero-privacy business model (2/2)

Reading (R11): Thompson, Vogelstein, “15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook”

Mon July 8 (#18) – Privacy and encryption

Reading (R12): Lex Gill, Tamir Israel, Christopher Parsons (May 2018), Shining a Light on the Encryption Debate: A Canadian Field Guide (pdf)

Reading (R13): The Citizen Lab et al., Secure your Chats! 

Wed July 10 (#19) – Is your privacy dead? (1/3)

Reading (R14): Joe Kissell (Apr 2019), Take Control of Your Online Privacy

Mon July 15 (#20) – Is your privacy dead? (2/3)

Reading (R14): Kissell, Take Control of Your Online Privacy

Wed July 17 (#21) –- Is your privacy dead? (3/3)

Reading (R14): Kissell, Take Control of Your Online Privacy

Mon July 22 (#22) – Privacy everywhere: education, cannabis sales, filesharing, smart cities

Readings TBD

Wed July 24 (#23) – Exam and attendance review, notebook grading, course evals

Wed July 26 — study day — no class

Mon July 29 (#24) In-class final exam – 3 hrs