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Educators Argue That Repealing Net Neutrality Could Hurt the American Education System​

Over the past few weeks, individuals across the country have been wondering about what the future holds for the Obama-era regulations that protect access to an open internet, more commonly referred to as “net neutrality.” Last week, in a partisan split, conservative members of the FCC voted to repeal these protections.

The 2015 legislation prevents internet providers from controlling what people can watch and see online, and also makes it punishable for companies like Comcast, At&T and Verizon to control access to websites or apps or adjust loading speeds to sites that their users visit. For those in the government sector, it's become one of the most fundamental concerns occurring in politics today.

One particular group of people who are worried about the possible repeal of net neutrality are educators, who increasingly rely on technology and the web to better engage with their students. Many are wondering whether or not today's repeal vote could dramatically impact the education system overall.

"One of the key elements of the internet is that it provides immediate access to a huge range of high-quality resources that are really useful to teachers," Richard Cullatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education told NPR. "But when carriers can choose to prioritize paid content over freely available content, schools really are at risk."

Clearly, this has the potential to impact students of all ages, but perhaps most at risk are students who rely on technology and the internet to advance in their degree programs — namely those in online degree programs.

Arizona State University professor Heather Ross is one such university faculty member who is worried about the impact that this week's vote could have on university education.

"ASU joins many other universities around the world in offering online educational opportunities so that students can start, continue and complete their education at all levels, wherever they happen to live or whatever their life circumstances," Ross writes.

As one of the most innovative universities in the nation, ASU has provided opportunities for students to learn regardless of their schedule, or physical location, and was an early adopter of online learning.

"Personally, I have had the privilege of teaching students who are actively deployed in the military, who have kept up with their education by using online resources," Ross continues. "For online students, a slow-down in internet speeds or even blockage of certain sites can impede their ability to access videos, audio recordings, live-streamed lectures and interactive discussions that make online learning feasible and effective. In effect, losing net neutrality has the potential to limit or restrict the content that online students can access, which can slow down their ability to learn and complete their coursework."

But it's not just college students that might suffer under the current administration's proposed policies.

As 5th grade teacher Molly Fuller reported to NPR yesterday, the internet is equally effective in teaching struggling students how to master courses that they may be struggling in.

"They can play math-based computer games, or see a digital diagram of a math problem broken down," she expresses.

In addition, Fuller notes that she uses the web to teach her students how to differentiate between good sources and bad sources — a skill that's becoming more valuable in today's electorate.

"We're trying to teach them those real-world skills," Fuller argues. In repealing these regulations, she notes, "it's really going to hinder their ability to learn."

According to a recent piece by Klint Finley for Wired, those who are taking less formal classes could also be affected.

His recent op-ed highlights the story of Nichole Williams, who needed to expand her programming skills in order to stay relevant in her career field. She did so by signing up for Thinkful, an online-education startup that pairs students for one-on-one educators and mentors who use video-chat to coach students about coding.

"Video plays a growing role in the education of students like Williams who turn to video conferencing, streaming lectures, and other forms of high-tech distance learning to complete or extend their educations," writes Finley. "But the looming end of net neutrality could make life harder, or at least more expensive, for such students."

Ultimately, as Mike Caulfield, who directs the blended and networked learning program at Washington State University Vancouver tells Wired, "Killing net neutrality will throw us back into the Dark Ages. And the people that it's likely to hurt most are actually rural populations that don't have face-to-face access to things like nursing programs." Programs, which it should be noted, need more individuals stepping up to partake in them.

Net neutrality has become a trending topic for good reason over the past two years, as there are multiple sectors that depend on its continued presence in order to maintain progress and economic growth. With any luck, white house leadership will make decisions that benefit not only those in the education system, but for the entirety of the U.S.

Posted by DanikaK at December 18, 2017 5:27 PM
Comment #422495

Wow, what a slanted report. How in the world did we ever manage such tremendous growth in internet usage before the net neutrality government take-over?

“Net Neutrality” hardly describes the intention of the Obama regulation.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 18, 2017 6:26 PM
Comment #422499


Until today, government regulations have always enforced net neutrality of one kind or another. Now, there may be merits to abandoning the system that fueled the flourishing of internet marketplace over the past 30 years, but it is preposterous to claim that these rules have only been in place since 2015. Here’s a timeline to educate yourself with:

From the beginning of time until 2014, net neutrality was enforced under the Title I of the Communications Act of 1934

January 2014: The DC circuit court rules that the previous practice is unconstitutional. Only under Title II can net neutrality be enforced, according to Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC (2014).

2014-2015: Obama’s FCC goes through the process of reclassifying internet services from Title I to Title II in order to preserve the old regulations.

2015-2017: Internet services continue to operate under the same rules as before. The only difference is that the rules originate from Title II rather than Title I

December 2017: Ajit Pai reclassifies internet services under Title I rather than Title II. Because of the existing jurisprudence, this means it is impossible to to re-implement the pre-2014 net neutrality regulator regime. Internet service in the United States is entering uncharted territory.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 19, 2017 9:14 AM
Comment #422560

The internet was fine before Obama era net neutrality regulations were put in place. All this hand wringing by the left is ridiculous.

Posted by: dbs at December 21, 2017 10:20 AM
Comment #422568


Before Obama, we had net neutrality regulations that were nearly identical to the ones that were in force from 2014 to 2017. Ajit Pai conducting a bold and novel experiment with the way Americans receive their internet services. We can discuss its merits, but this is not a return to any system that was in place previously.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 21, 2017 3:43 PM
Comment #422584


The only thing being rolled back are the new regulations implemented by Obama’s FCC. Things will go back to the way they were before those changes were made, so according to what you are telling me, it shouldn’t matter.

Posted by: dbs at December 22, 2017 8:02 AM
Comment #422606


You are just wrong. After Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC, regulation under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 will never be the same as it was before 2014.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 22, 2017 5:50 PM
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