INFO 203: A Networked World (formerly INFO 290 NW)

Instructor: Phillipa Gill
Time: Tu/Th 8:30-9:45
Location: CS Rm. 142
Forum: This term we will be using Piazza for class discussion. The system is highly catered to getting you help fast and efficiently from classmates, the TA, and myself. Rather than emailing questions to the teaching staff, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza. If you have any problems or feedback for the developers, email our class page at: .

Quick links: [grading criteria][schedule (with assignments)][policies]


In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs and values expressed by students and staff involved in this course. My colleagues and I support UMass’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals regardless of age, background, citizenship, disability, sex, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.


All announcements, assignments, lists of readings, policies, etc., will be posted on the course Web site (you're here!) and its accompanying Piazza forum. Check Piazza regularly, or enable email notifications for the forum.


There are over 7 billion people on earth, more than 6 billion mobile cellular telephone subscriptions, and nearly 2.5 billion Internet users. The number of other devices being connected to the Internet – cameras, sensors, appliances, control systems, cars, picture frames and more — is also increasing rapidly. Our planet is truly becoming a “networked world”.

In this course, we’ll cover the technical, social, policy, economic and legal foundations for these networks. We’ll focus mostly on the Internet, but also touch on telephone (mobile and landline) and critical infrastructure networks. This course covers computer science topics, but all material will be presented in a way that is accessible with or without a strong technical background.

We’ll dive into how the Internet works. We’ll look at the protocols that make web servers and browsers work, how information is routed among billions of Internet devices, how Internet devices can reliably communicate with each other over an inherently unreliable Internet infrastructure, and we’ll learn how the Internet has been able to scale from a network with less than a hundred devices 40 years ago to several billion devices today – arguably the largest and most complex human-engineered system ever. We’ll examine privacy enhancing technologies such as Tor, and learn how the blockchain that powers BitCoin and related cryptocurrencies works. We’ll also learn about the “dark side” – Internet attacks – and ways to secure networks against attacks and to protect personal information on the Internet.

But this course is about much more than network concepts and technology alone. Interspersed throughout the course we’ll also investigate policy and legal issues - wiretapping laws, “network neutrality” and the “open Internet,” looking at recent FCC and court rulings. And we’ll look at the business side of networks – how Internet service providers make money, how companies track, harvest and use your personal information, and how historically innovation begets industry and then industry begets empire in the networked world.

Who is this course for? 

This course is intended for students who want to learn about communication networks, particularly the Internet, and how they work. The course will provide an overview of the conceptual, technological, social, legal, policy, and economic foundations of the Internet. The course is not intended for Computer Science majors or minors – students interested in a major/minor-level treatment of this material should consider COMPSCI 453 and other relevant electives (COMPSCI 391L, 591SP, etc.) instead.


There are no formal prerequisites, except an interest and desire to learn. We do expect competency in reading, writing, high school algebra, and the ability to use a computer (but no programming experience is required!).


This course will draw its technical material primarily from Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach, 6th edition. The first chapter of this book is available online (free). The book is required, though the “International 6th” edition may be cheaper and is OK. The 5th edition will be cheaper but lacks some important material, though you may be able to borrow a friend’s copy for those sections. In any case, you will not require the “online access codes;” while the material they provide access to is nice, it’s not essential.

You will also require an i>clicker 2 remote.

Other reading can be found here.

Grading Criteria

30% Assignments
30% Class Exercises
40% Exams

There are no opportunities for extra credit in this course.

I will retain all graded materials for this course until the end of next semester (Fall 2017). If you wish to review them, please come to see me during office hours (or make an appointment).

There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. You will complete near-weekly homework assignments, including several hands-on exercises that can be done on a PC or Mac with a web browser. We will make use of Moodle for submitting weekly assignments. These assignments are usually due at 1700 on Friday. There will be in-class exercises that require both pen and paper and i>clicker remotes.

Assignments: I will post assignments about once a week. They will be posted/linked to in the schedule, and must be submitted through Moodle. They will usually be posted sometime on Friday, and be due at 1700 (5pm) the following Friday. We will use slip days to account for late assignment submissions. You may be late up to a total of 5 days across all assignments. If you are using a slip day for an assignment please note it at the top of your submission. Each assignment is equally weighted.

Class Exercises: In addition to assignments, you will be assigned exercises in class. Some of these exercises will be assigned for you to complete individually, and some will be assigned to groups. You will be able to use your book, notes, etc., when working these problems. Each day’s class exercise is weighted equally.

Exams: There will be two short, in-class, non-cumulative, equally-weighted exams, and a cumulative final exam. The final exam is optional. If you do not take it, each midterm will account for an equal fraction of the exam portion of your grade. If you do take the final, it will count for half of the exam portion of your grade, with each midterm making up one-third of the remainder.

You may not bring supplemental material to the exams, that is, they are closed-book, and the use of notes, calculators, computers, phones, etc., is forbidden.

Tentative Schedule

All information subject to change.

***Please refer to the readings for each lecture Here***.

University policies and information

Academic Honesty Statement: Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent. Please read the UMass Academic Honesty Policy.

Other Academic Regulations: The Office of the Registrar publishes Academic Regulations yearly. You should be familiar with them. Particularly relevant are the policies on attendance, absences due to religious observance, and examinations.

Accommodation Statement: The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.