Broadband Access

Link to module

Evaluated December 2021

This module explores algorithms and networking issues as well as fairness constraints. The central focus of the module is on an assignment that requires students to write an algorithm related to broadband access. The module makes specific reference to the needs of rural internet subscribers and explains that Internet Service Providers often operate as monopolies and therefore have a lot of power over consumers in their regions. These economic, technological, and infrastructure issues are at the core of the questions in the lesson, and they may provide an excellent starting or ending point for class discussions around these challenges.

This module addresses material in Algorithms and Complexity/Algorithmic Strategies, Algorithms and Complexity/Fundamental Data Structures and Algorithms, (NC) Networking and Communications/Introduction.

Instructors adopting this module will find necessary background readings linked for students and instructors. An interdisciplinary background is not required for delivery. The module is designed to come at the end of a course component (much like a essay or exam), so the faculty member will have to design the material that precedes the module to prepare students with the skills needed to complete the lesson. The module, as written, does assume that students will understand the difference between a company motivated primarily by profit and a company motivated by service and quality. In other words, students will be expected to understand how the values of an organization influence its technical decisions and designs. Students will be expected to synthesize value commitments and technical decisions to design algorithms that produce differently desired results.

There are broader learning objectives present, but the instructor will need to create an assessment plan for the activities in the module. Because the lessons are technical, instructors may need to remind students that the ongoing, evolving relationship between values and technology does not lend itself to simple solutions. Therefore, while the lesson uses a case study as the jumping off point, the ethical issues involved are considered at the broader collective level, so instructors will need to consider what, if any, assessment is feasible.


The evaluation of this module was led by Patrick Anderson and Darakhshan Mir as part of the Mozilla Foundation Responsible Computer Science Challenge. Emanuelle Burton, Judy Goldsmith, Colleen Greer, Jaye Nias, Evan Peck, and Marty J. Wolf also made contributions. These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.