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FOR EDUCATORS > Lesson Plan: The Net Neutrality Debate
This lesson is designed for Social Studies Studies and Language Arts classrooms, grades 9-12.
Source: "Content Knowledge" (http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp) by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)
Standard 13: Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity.Economics
Standard 4: Understands basic features of market structures and exchanges.Language Arts
Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.U.S. History
Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.Estimated Time
One 45-minute class period
Backgrounder for Teachers
To prepare for this lesson, it is suggested that the following materials be reviewed:
This lesson assumes that students have experience using the Internet for personal and academic purposes, including research. In addition, it is assumed that students are familiar with the basic structure and purpose of editorials.
1. Ask students to provide examples of how they use the Internet. List responses on the board.
2. Point out that some activities listed (e.g., watching video) demand a more robust Internet infrastructure than other activities (e.g., sending a text email). Explain that such varied demands on the Internet's infrastructure have triggered a debate about 'Net Neutrality,' an issue rooted in how content should be delivered to consumers. In a nutshell, companies that provide 'high speed' or broadband networks (i.e., phone company DSL or cable Internet services) want to be able to charge higher fees to those who send data-heavy content on the Internet in return for getting that content to consumers faster than the content of individuals or companies who don't pay the higher fees. Broadband network providers say it's only fair that those who place a greater demand on the network should pay more. Critics of this approach believe that such a tiered system would limit the 'openness,' 'freedom' and 'neutrality' of the Internet because not all content providers would be able to reach consumers on a level playing field; those with money would be given an unfair advantage. Some also worry that network providers might block or censor some people's content.
3. Show students a 3:28 video clip on the Net Neutrality debate from the MOYERS ON AMERICA "Net at Risk" program. As students watch, have them list the concerns shared by those featured in the clip.
4. Discuss the following: Based on the information in the video, how has the Internet influenced the democratic process? Why is Net Neutrality such an important issue to Joan Blades of MoveOn and Michelle Combs of the Christian Coalition? Why does Mike McCurry, a lobbyist for broadband network providers, think government regulation isn't necessary?
5. Explain to students that they will dive deeper into the Net Neutrality debate as they conduct research and develop persuasive one-page editorials that express their positions on this issue. Then, distribute copies of the Editorial Prewriting Worksheet and point students to the following sections of the MOYERS ON AMERICA Web site:
Net Neutrality overview
Quotes from those in favor of and opposed to Net Neutrality legislation
Summary of arguments from those for and against Net Neutrality
6. Based on the abilities of your students, provide a deadline for completing the editorials and collect them at the appropriate time.
Check student understanding of the concepts in this lesson by:
Online NewsHour: Net Neutrality Analysis
Cari Ladd, M.Ed., is an educational writer with a background in secondary education and media development. Previously, she served as PBS Interactive's Director of Education, overseeing the development of curricular resources tied to PBS programs, the PBS TeacherSource Web site, and online teacher professional development services. She has also taught in Maryland and Northern Virginia.