Values in the Net Neutrality Debate: Applying Content Analysis to Testimonies from Public Hearings

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Cheng, An-Shou
Fleischmann, Kenneth R.
The Net neutrality debate is an important telecommunications policy issue that closely tied to technological innovation, economic development, and information access. Existing studies on Net neutrality have focused primarily on technological requirements, economic analysis, and regulatory justifications. Since values, technology, and policy are interrelated, it is important to consider the role of human values in the design and regulation of telecommunications infrastructure. To analyze the role of human values in shaping the Net neutrality debate, this dissertation focuses on a corpus of public hearings related to Net neutrality that provide useful data points that help to expose the values of various stakeholders in the Net neutrality debate. Content analysis of testimonies from Congressional and FCC hearings on Net neutrality is employed to study values expressed by stakeholders. The major findings of this study include (1) the Net neutrality debate can be framed in terms of values expressed by proponents and opponents of Net neutrality; (2) there are differences in values expressed among positions, stakeholder groups, venues, and time periods in the Net neutrality debate; and (3) differences in values expressed by proponents and opponents of Net neutrality have changed over time. This dissertation advances the understanding of values expressed by stakeholders in the Net neutrality debate, informs the process of agenda setting and decision-making related to Net neutrality policy-making, and fills the gap in the connection between IT policy and values research.