Understanding the net neutrality debate: Listening to stakeholders


  • Alexander Ly
  • Bertrum H MacDonald Dalhousie University
  • Sandra Toze Dalhousie University




Net neutrality, Internet access, Stakeholder perspectives, Government regulation, Internet future


The Internet is increasingly seen as integral to economic progress and prosperity. Yet how the Internet will be managed as it grows and diversifies remains a hotly contested topic, as the debate on net neutrality demonstrates. Whether the Internet is neutral or not has serious implications for Internet service providers (ISPs), businesses operating online, governments, and civil society. With these stakeholders and varying interests at play, the debate about net neutrality is often characterized in terms of polar positions, and the discussion has seemed intransigent and ongoing with an uncertain end point. To increase understanding about the debate, this paper combines a review of the literature on net neutrality with evidence from interviews with four individuals, each representing the viewpoint of a major stakeholder group in Canada. Analysis of the similarities and differences among key stakeholder positions shows that in fact the positions are more complex and considerably more nuanced than typically depicted. By focussing on components of the issues, and staying away from the politics of contesting net neutrality, progress in the debate can be made. While this paper gives attention to the Canadian context in particular, the findings echo those of international organizations, and adds to the global conversation on the future of the Internet.

Author Biographies

Alexander Ly

Alexander Ly is a Master of Electronic Commerce graduate of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and holds a BA from Carleton University. He began studies for his JD degree at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, in September 2011. E-mail: alexander.ly [at] gmail [dot] com

Bertrum H MacDonald, Dalhousie University

Bertrum H. MacDonald is Professor of Information Management, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He holds a BSc (Biology) from Acadia University, MA (History of Science), and MLS and PhD (Information Science) from the University of Western Ontario. His current research examines the use and influence of scientific information, produced primarily by governmental and intergovernmental organizations, in public policy contexts. E-mail: bertrum [dot] macdonald [at] dal [dot] ca

Sandra Toze, Dalhousie University

Sandra Toze is a Lecturer of Information Management, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and holds a BAH from Queen?s University, a Master of Library and Information Science (University of Toronto), and is currently an Interdisciplinary PhD candidate at Dalhousie University. Her research involves examining how humans, particularly groups, find and integrate information to successfully accomplish knowledge-based work tasks, and to help design tools and practices to facilitate and enhance this process. E-mail: sandra [dot] toze [at] dal [dot] ca




How to Cite

Ly, A., MacDonald, B. H., & Toze, S. (2012). Understanding the net neutrality debate: Listening to stakeholders. First Monday, 17(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i5.3857