Lesson 8: The Internet Is for Everyone


This lesson sets the the stage for why we want to learn about how the Internet works. First students share what they currently know about how the Internet works through a KWL activity.

Then students watch a short video the introduces Vint Cerf and the Internet at high level. Students then skim a memo written to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) by Vint Cerf in 2002 entitled “The Internet is for Everyone,” which calls out a series of threats to the prospect that the Internet should be an open, easily and cheaply accessible resource for everyone on the planet.

Finally we foreshadow the practice PT at the end of the unit. Many of the questions and challenges raised by Vint Cerf still apply today, and students will be asked to research and present on one for the Practice PT.


The purpose of this lesson is to set up and motivate students to be receptive to learning about some of the technical aspects of how the Internet functions. We want the message to be clear that a huge part of being able to solve these problems, or even to function as an informed citizen, is to be educated about how the Internet actually works as a system that is built, engineered, and maintained by people.

It is both interesting and important to know that the protocols or rules by which Internet traffic is governed are not owned or controlled by any government or business (at the moment). It’s a group of well-meaning citizen-engineers dedicated to keeping the Internet free, open and robust for all.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the group of mostly volunteer citizens that proposes and develops all of the standards and protocols that exist on the Internet. Request for Comments (RFC) documents - like the one we use in the lesson - are how these standards and protocols are defined and published for all to see on the IETF website. They are some of the best-written technical documents in existence.

And with a little background in how bits work, what’s necessary for protocols to work when bits are transferred over wires, they are relatively accessible reading. Here’s the full set: https://www.ietf.org/rfc.html. RFC 000 (the first one) is related to what we ask students to do in the next several lessons.


Getting Started

Activity 1 - KWL The Internet (25 mins)

Activity - Vint Cerf: The Internet is for Everyone (20 mins)

Wrap-up (5 mins)


Extended Learning

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Students will be able to:

  • Connect a personal experience to one challenge related to the idea that "The Internet is for Everyone".
  • Cite one example of how computing has a global affect -- both beneficial and harmful -- on people and society.
  • Explain that the Internet is a distributed global system that works on shared and open protocols.


  • Copies of the activity guide to distribute (or distribute online)


Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Students


  • IETF - Internet Engineering Task Force - develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards and protocols, in particular the standards that comprise the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP).
  • Internet - A group of computers and servers that are connected to each other.
  • Net Neutrality - the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers.

Teaching Guide

Getting Started

Teaching Tips

Don’t linger too much with this introduction or the subsequent activity. This lesson is intended to be a quick one-day motivator lesson to have students understand the scale of the questions we’re going to consider about the Internet and why learning about how the Internet functions is an important part of addressing those questions intelligently. This lesson should not go longer than one class period.


  • So far in this class you have solved a few problems by creating and using small protocols for transmitting data over a wire to one other person.
  • But the Internet is obviously much bigger than a single wire connecting two people. It connects billions of people and even more billions of machines.
  • In the next several lessons, we’re going to look at some of the technical issues involved with having lots of machines trying to communicate at the same time.
  • In other words, we're going to take a deep dive into the inner-workings of the Internet.

Activity 1 - KWL The Internet (25 mins)

KWL the Internet

Activity Goal

If you are familiar with KWL charts you can make this a more formal activity, but the intent is for this to be rapid and relatively informal.

When doing KWL as a group you should be cautious about accidentally making it seem like you're trying to make students feel "dumb" by exposing what they don't know. The Internet is complicated and hard for anyone to explain all at once. The point of the exercise is three-fold:

  1. Get the bits and pieces that students do know of how the Internet works out into the open because you can refer back to these later.
  2. That will hopefully generate a bunch of questions about how the Internet actually works - which we are likely to address in this unit or in unit 4
  3. Motivate a desire to answer those questions, both intrinsically, out of genuine curiosity, and extrinsically, because of the Practice PT that concludes the unit.


You may already know a few things about how the Internet works. Maybe you feel like you don't know anything, but in that case you might have questions or be curious about how things work.

To get started learning more about the Internet we want to get out into the open what we know and what we want to know more about.

It’s okay if you don’t know the whole thing. We want to collect the bits and pieces that we do know, and over the course of the next few lessons we'll put it all together.

Distribute KWL chart

  • You can either have students just make 3 columns in their journals
  • or (OPTIONAL) print out this version KWL Chart - Handout

Thinking prompt: (2 mins)

“When you enter a web address in a browser and hit enter, what happens? At some point you see the web page in the browser, but what happens in between? What are all the steps?"

"Write down the series of things that you think (or have heard) happen right after you hit Enter. What happens first, second, third and so on. "

"Don’t worry if you don’t know all the pieces or how they all fit together. If you don't know a step, or you are fuzzy on some details, or there's a gap, that's okay. Just write down the parts that you know."

Give students about 2 minutes to write.

Pair (5 mins)

Ask students to compare notes with their neighbor.

Generate list of things on post-its?

Share (10 mins)

On the board at the front of the room or in a shared document, have students put the things they know.

Teaching Tip

To motivate some want-to-knows it's useful to think about a number of societal issues that hinge on knowledge of the internet and how it works.

  • How does a web page come back to you and not someone else?
  • Is a web page one big message? or multiple messages?
  • How does a website remember who you are?
  • What happens if a cable gets cut? Does the Internet fix itself?
  • Who is in charge of the Internet?
  • Who pays for the Internet?
  • Where/how might someone spy on you?
  • Who controls what you are allowed to see?
  • If a government wanted to restrict access to the internet, how would they do it?
  • Who can see your Internet activity? how?
  • Are there parts of the internet you're not allowed to see?
  • Where/how would a hacker steal your identity?
  • What exactly is being attacked during a cyber attack?

Cluster ideas by type, in a way that seems to make sense to you. Some categories that might come up:

  • Routing messages to the right place
  • Addresses (e.g. IP addresses)
  • Packets (breaking message down into small parts)
  • Security/encryption concerns
  • Translating URL to IP address
  • Clients and servers
  • Databases
  • Internet Service Providers
  • Physical mediums (e.g. WiFi v. Fiber optic v. copper wires, etc.)

As a class review the list and Write down want to knows (7 mins)

  • Review the clusters of things students came up with.
  • Identify gaps or mysteries that exist in the process.
  • Is it totally clear what the sequence of steps is?

  • You can get things started by asking some big questions like:

    • "Who is in charge of the internet?"
    • "Does any country have its own Internet?"
    • "Is it possible to control what you see or have access to on the Internet? Who is in control, at what level? At what part of the process do they operate? How does it work?"

  • What are the gaps in what we know?
  • What questions do you have at this point?

Give students a few minutes to write down their own questions.

Activity - Vint Cerf: The Internet is for Everyone (20 mins)

Teaching Tip

Vint Cerf is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the modern internet. He will be a recurring character for the rest of the unit, mostly in videos as a kind of tour guide. We introduce him here asking some big questions.

Video: Introducing Vint Cerf

Show this brief 2-minute video in which Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the Internet) asks "What is the Internet Really?" What is the Internet? - Video

Transitional Remarks

In the video Vint Cerf says that nobody and everybody is in charge of making the internet work but the reason it all works together because everyone uses the same protocols.

So who develops these protocols? Who makes the final decisions? Who is in charge? The amazing thing is that no single person, government, or corporation is in charge.

Rather, it is a collection of citizens and volunteers interested in defining the standards who formed a volunteer organization called the Internet Engineering Task Force to develop and promote voluntary internet standards IETF.

Vint Cerf: The Internet is for Everyone

Distribute either:

Review the Introduction and Background to the document.

Teaching Tip

In the interest of time, you may want to review the background material on the first page together as a whole class, or just read it to students yourself. NOTE: The abbreviated version of the document does not contain this introductory text but the full version does.

Students should know the circumstances under which "The Internet is for Everyone" was written and generally what its goals were. They should also know what the IETF is.

While students work with the document...

  • Students will probably need 10 minutes or more to process the document.
  • Students should not be doing research but should be trying to make personally meaningful connections to the challenges presented in the document.
  • Most of the threats posed in the document are either about access, or freedom and privacy which should be things students can relate to on some level.

(This text is in the full version of the handout)

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Vint Cerf was concerned about maintaining some of the principles of openness and access upon which the Internet was built and founded.

He wrote a memo entitled The Internet is for Everyone as a plea to the the people who write and define standards (the IETF) to make sure the way the Internet is engineered maintained the philosophy that the Internet should be available and useable by everyone in the world, regardless of race, gender, creed, location, or wealth.

In the memo, he lays out the state of the Internet and its usage in 2002, predicts the future, and then presents a series of nine challenges or threats to the idea that the Internet is for everyone. The last several paragraphs begin with the phrase: “Internet is for everyone - but it won’t be if…

Instructions for students

  • With a partner, skim the document and look at the 9 "Internet is for everyone - but it won't be if..." challenges laid out at the end.

  • With your partner pick one or two of the challenges that are the most meaningful to you, or relate to some experience you've had in your life.

  • Be prepared to:

    • Read the statement you chose: “Internet is for everyone - but it won’t be if….” and then explain in your own words what it means.
    • Explain why that particular challenge is meaningful to you or relates to some experience you've had.

Discussion Goal

The important factor here is to make the class student-centered. They should get to know each other’s stories. From the students’ examples, there should emerge at least a few powerful examples how much the Internet means to our society, our quality of life, and freedoms. Difficult economic issues of access to the Internet may emerge, as might sensitive issues related to cyberbullying or crime. Be sensitive to these issues if they emerge.

Whip around share-out:

  1. Ask for a volunteer to briefly state:

    • One of the challenges they chose.
    • The example they thought of for that challenge.
  2. Ask for another volunteer who chose a different challenge to do the same thing...and so on until all or most of the challenges have been addressed or you are out of time.

Wrap-up (5 mins)

The "Internet is for Everyone" is actually a philosophy about how people should be connected. That philosophy is expressed in the way the Internet standards and protocols were engineered. In order to understand that philosophy over the next several lessons we’ll be learning about the systems of protocols that work together to make the internet function.

Foreshadow the Practice PT: Internet and Society

Why learn about how the Internet works? As Vint Cerf Says: "You can't escape from contact with the Internet. So why not get to know it?" But you don't have to take Vint Cerf's word. Some of the largest issues facing society hinge on an understanding of how the Internet functions.

At the end of this unit you will do a Practice PT about one of these societal issues. You will research one of these modern issues and prepare a flash talk (a 2 minute presentation) that explains the technical aspects of the Internet that underlie that issue. As you go through these lessons keep you ears and eyes open for how things work.

Many of the issues are related to people taking advantage of the open protocols that make the internet function and present us with tricky dilemmas.

Content Corner

More Examples and reasons to learn how the Internet functions:

  • The people who propose the laws, or judge them often don’t really know how the Internet works, what makes sense and what doesn’t. (See: The Internet is a series of tubes).
  • Citizens don’t know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, or often live in a cloud of fear and uncertainty not only about the law, but their rights, and about what’s actually technically possible.
  • Hackers take advantage of unknowing, unsuspecting people.
  • Corporations who provide Internet service need to balance profitability with providing access to everyone.
  • Countries restrict access to the internet or monitors activity - how is that technically possible? What is it they are actually doing?

For example there are two major issues to think about:

  • Net Neutrality is a raging legal debate about the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

  • Internet Censorship is the attempt to control or suppress of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet by certain people. This can be used to protect people (i.e. to not allow access to child pornography) but can also be used to limit free speech.

To have an informed opinion though it helps to understand the technical underpinnings of how the internet works.

Finally, a major issue that our society faces is that far too few people actually understand how the Internet works! We are going to change that over the next few lessons.


Code Studio: Assessment questions are available on the Code Studio.

Extended Learning

  • Reading RFCs can actually be fun, especially the early ones! Here are all the RFCs: https://www.ietf.org/rfc.html
  • Blown to Bits (www.bitsbook.com), Chapter 1, pp. 4-13. - Read about the following koans (or truths) of bits related to the Internet:
    • Koan 1: It’s All Just Bits
    • Koan 2: Perfection Is Normal
    • Koan 3: There Is Want in the Midst of Plenty
    • Koan 6: Nothing Goes Away
    • Koan 7: Bits Move Faster Than Thought
    • Pick one of these koans and address the following questions:
      • Argue if you agree that it is a “truth” and if it will always be a “truth.”
      • How does this koan intersect with your life as a student?
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Student Instructions

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Student Instructions

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Teaching Tip

Correct Answers: - make informed choices to support or oppose decisions my government makes about access to the internet. - right 'make informed choices about my privacy on the internet.

Student Instructions

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Student Instructions

The Internet is for Everyone: Assessment 4

Explain one challenge raised by Vint Cerf in “The Internet is for Everyone - but it won’t be if….” and give one example of it that you know about.

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Student Instructions

This level is an assessment or survey with multiple questions. To view this level click the "View on Code Studio" link.

Standards Alignment

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CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2011)

CD - Computers & Communication Devices
  • CD.L3A:9 - Describe how the Internet facilitates global communication.
CI - Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts
  • CI.L3A:10 - Describe security and privacy issues that relate to computer networks.
  • CI.L3A:4 - Compare the positive and negative impacts of technology on culture (e.g., social networking, delivery of news and other public media, and intercultural communication).

Computer Science Principles

6.1 - The Internet is a network of autonomous systems.
6.1.1 - Explain the abstractions in the Internet and how the Internet functions. [P3]
  • 6.1.1B - An end to end architecture facilitates connecting new devices and networks on the Internet.
  • 6.1.1C - Devices and networks that make up the Internet are connected and communicate using addresses and protocols.
  • 6.1.1E - Connecting new devices to the Internet is enabled by assignment of an Internet protocol (IP) address.
6.2 - Characteristics of the Internet influence the systems built on it.
6.2.2 - Explain how the characteristics of the Internet influence the systems built on it. [P4]
  • 6.2.2E - Open standards fuel the growth of the Internet.
7.3 - Computing has a global affect -- both beneficial and harmful -- on people and society.
7.3.1 - Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing. [P4]
  • 7.3.1A - Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1D - Both authenticated and anonymous access to digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1E - Commercial and governmental censorship of digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • 7.3.1G - Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.
  • 7.3.1L - Commercial and governmental curation of information may be exploited if privacy and other protections are ignored.
7.4 - Computing innovations influence and are influenced by the economic, social, and cultural contexts in which they are designed and used.
7.4.1 - Explain the connections between computing and economic, social, and cultural contexts. [P1]
  • 7.4.1C - The global distribution of computing resources raises issues of equity, access, and power.
  • 7.4.1D - Groups and individuals are affected by the “digital divide” — differing access to computing and the Internet based on socioeconomic or geographic characteristics.
  • 7.4.1E - Networks and infrastructure are supported by both commercial and governmental initiatives.

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

IC - Impacts of Computing
  • 3A-IC-28 - Explain the beneficial and harmful effects that intellectual property laws can have on innovation.
  • 3B-IC-26 - Evaluate the impact of equity, access, and influence on the distribution of computing resources in a global society.