Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 30761
Net Regularity and Its Ethical Implications on Internet Stake Holders

Authors: Nourhan Elshenawi


Net Neutrality (NN) is the principle of treating all online data the same without any prioritization of some over others. A research gap in current scholarship about “violations of NN” and the subsequent ethical concerns paves the way for the following research question: To what extent violations of NN entail ethical concerns and implications for Internet stakeholders? To answer this question, NR is examined using the two major action-based ethical theories, Kantian and Utilitarian, across the relevant Internet stakeholders. First some necessary IT background is provided that shapes how the Internet works and who the key stakeholders are. Following the IT background, the relationship between the stakeholders, users, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and content providers is discussed and illustrated. Then some violations of NN that are currently occurring is covered, without attracting any attention from the general public from an ethical perspective, as a new term Net Regularity (NR). Afterwards, the current scholarship on NN and its violations are discussed, that are mainly from an economic and sociopolitical perspectives to highlight the lack of ethical discussions on the issue. Before moving on to the ethical analysis however, websites are presented as digital entities that are affected by NR and their happiness is measured using functionalism. The analysis concludes that NR is prone to an unethical treatment of Internet stakeholders in the perspective of both theories. Finally, the current Digital Divide in the world is presented to be able to better illustrate the implications of NR. The implications present the new Internet divide that will take place between individuals within society. Through answering the research question using ethical analysis, it attempts to shed some light on the issue of NR and what kind of society it would lead to. NR would not just lead to a divided society, but divided individuals that are separated by something greater than distance, the Internet.

Keywords: Digital Divide, Internet Law, net neutrality, internet service providers, digital entities, digital ontology, internet ethics, websites as beings

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 1191


[1] Anon, 2006. ‘ISP (Internet service provider) definition’. TechTarget. Available from: isp (Accessed October 12, 2015).
[2] Anon, 2014. ‘FCC moves forward with plan to allow Internet fast lane’, CBS.
[3] Anon, 2015. ‘Net Neutrality National Survey’. Hart Research Association (Online). Available from: wp-content/Rewuploads/2015/02/fi11518-final.pdf (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[4] Anon, ‘A Guide to the Open Internet’. The Open Internet. Available from: (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[5] Anon, ‘Congestion’. Techopedia. Available from: (Accessed November 25, 2015).
[6] Anon, ‘Defend Internet Freedom in India!’. Save The Internet. Available from: (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[7] Anon, ‘Expert System’, Business Dictionary. Available from: (Accessed January 29, 2016).
[8] Anon, ‘Internet Users’. Internetlivestats. Available from: (Accessed October 12, 2015).
[9] Anon, ‘Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now’. Save The Internet. Available from: (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[10] Anon, ‘On the Internet, you decide what you do, right? Not anymore!’. Respect My Net. Available from: (Accessed November 25, 2015).
[11] Anon, 2014. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Net Neutrality (HBO), HBO. Available from: watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU (Accessed January 18, 2016).
[12] Anon, ‘What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?’. Microsoft. Available from: (Accessed October 12, 2015).
[13] Barme, G.R. & Ye, S., ‘The Great Firewall of China'. Wired. Available from: china_pr.html (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[14] Crimmins, James E., 2015. ‘Jeremy Bentham’ E. N. Zalta, ed. Available at: (Accessed January 28, 2016).
[15] Darrington, J., ‘What Is an Internet Content Provider?’. Small Business Chron. Available from: (Accessed October 12, 2015).
[16] Dean, D. et al., The Internet Economy in the G-20. Available from: (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[17] Downes, L., 2014. ‘How Netflix Poisoned the Net Neutrality Debate’. Forbes. Available from: 11/25/how-netflix-poisoned-the-net-neutrality-debate/ (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[18] Economides, N., 2012. ‘The economics of network neutrality’. The RAND Journal of Economics (Online), 43(4), 602–629. Available from: (Accessed December 1, 2015).
[19] Federal Communications Commission, ‘Open Internet’. FCC. Available from: (Accessed November 24, 2015).
[20] Graham, George, "Behaviorism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), available at: (Accessed March 16, 2016).
[21] Greenwald, W. & Lendino, J., 2015. ‘What Is 4K (Ultra HD)?’. PCMag. Available at:,2817,2412174,00.asp (Accessed January 28, 2016).
[22] Heidegger, M., 1982. The basic problems of phenomenology, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
[23] Heil, J., 2013. Functionalism. In Philosophy of mind: a contemporary introduction. New York: Routledge, p. 87.
[24] International Telecommunication Union, THE WORLD IN 2010. ‘THE WORLD IN 2010’, facts/ICTFactsFigures2010.pdf (Accessed November 24, 2015).
[25] International Telecommunication Union, THE WORLD IN 2015. ‘THE WORLD IN 2015’, facts/ICTFactsFigures2015.pdf (Accessed November 24, 2015).
[26] Irwin, N., 2014. ‘A Super-Simple Way to Understand The Net Neutrality Debate’. The New York Times. Available from: (Accessed November 25, 2015).
[27] Johnson, R., 2014. ‘Kant's Moral Philosophy’ E. N. Zalta, ed. Available from: (Accessed December 8, 2015).
[28] Kim, J., 2001. Phenomenology of Digital-Being. Human Studies, 24(1-2), 87–111.
[29] McDonald, S.N., 2014. ‘John Oliver’s net neutrality rant may have caused FCC site crash’. Washington Post. Available from: (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[30] Mill, J.S., 1863. Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill. Available from: mill1.htm (Accessed December 8, 2015).
[31] Netflix, 2014. ‘Applications of Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. for Consent to Assign or Transfer Control of Licenses and Authorizations’, (Accessed December 2, 2015).
[32] Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2001. Understanding the Digital Divide. ‘Understanding the Digital Divide’, (Accessed December 22, 2015).
[33] Oxford English Dictionary, OED. OED. Available from: (Accessed December 22, 2015).
[34] Severance, C., Internet History, Technology, and Security. Coursera. Available from: fmbma/history-through-nsfnet (Accessed December 22, 2015).
[35] Stanford University, Internet History. Available at: (Accessed January 28, 2016).
[36] The White House, ‘Net Neutrality’. White House. Available from: (Accessed November 24, 2015).
[37] Wheeler, M., 2011. Martin Heidegger. Stanford University. Available from: (Accessed March 31, 2016).