Position Statement written on behalf of The Educator Collaborative and authored by Christopher Lehman, Kristin Ziemke, and Maggie Beattie Roberts with support from Heather Rocco and Dana Stachowiak
Update: This statement appeared in the NPR story “How a Deregulated Internet Could Hurt America’s Classrooms“
Position Statement in Support of Net Neutrality
If Net Neutrality is repealed, it will directly hurt schools, educators, families and students.
The Educator Collaborative supports Net Neutrality and urges you to contact your state and federal representatives, as well as the FCC, to maintain the current classification under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
We believe that under the current FCC designation, the internet is more free and open. This allows educators, students, and families access to information, apps, websites, and videos they feel will best support learning, creative thinking, and informed citizenship.
We believe the digital divide is real and a free and open internet is a necessary step to closing it. Schools already do not have equal access to technology. Adding a stratified system of access to the internet—based on location, income, or political capital—would further divide opportunities for students. We must move forward, not backward.
What is Net Neutrality?
“Neutrality” refers to the fact that you can access any website, app, or service, with the same speed and same reliability. Your emails, favorite websites, and social media, are available to you equally.
In 2015, the FCC voted to list internet service providers (ISPs) as a “common carrier” (think public utility) under the 1934 Telecommunications Act. From that decision, new regulations included:
- ISPs are required to disclose fees,
- ISPs must have consent from you before selling or sharing your browsing behaviors,
- ISPs must prevent internet slowdowns beyond regular operation. (Previous to this, some ISPs were slowing down Netflix to pressure them into negotiations!)
Internet use today:
Generally, someone pays an initial fee to access the internet (often as part of a monthly package or data plan). That one fee can be costly, however, it is only one. Once that fee is paid, if a device can join the network, it can go to any website, app, or service they would like. Parents, schools, or website owners can decide to block information behind passwords or ask for payment, but ISPs cannot.
Internet use if Net Neutrality goes away:
Services could be bundled on a graduated system. Potentially, it could be one cost to email and text, but then additional costs to add the option for a user to search content, stream videos, access music sites or more. The internet would look a lot like cable packages, and often cable bills are increasing while channels seem to come and go.
Website and apps owners will likely also need to pay higher fees in order to have their information and services streamed quickly or made more publicly available. This again could increase user costs, but could also mean access to less information, websites, apps, or services.
How Would Repealing Net Neutrality Hurt Schools?
It is our belief that the only winners in an FCC repeal of Net Neutrality classifications are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other large, wealthy businesses or powerful government agencies. Most everyone else will likely see an increase in fees, more complicated packages, and worse, more limited access.
Without Net Neutrality, ISPs could:
- share your private data and browsing without your consent;
- add fees ranging from hidden fees, to special new access fees, to new “package” fees, or any other fees as they see fit;
- slow down (sometime called “throttling”) internet traffic to competitors (for example, an ISP could make a deal with a large learning website to slow down access to others);
- allow any wealthy business or powerful government entity to direct traffic to sites and apps they deem favorable and, conversely, slow down or make too costly access to other sites
How to Contact Representatives and the FCC:
Congressional Switchboard (call your representatives by entering your zip code): (202) 224-3121
- “Resist Bot” (send faxes to representatives via text messaging) text “Resist” to 50409
- FCC: Go to this link and click “Express” to leave a comment: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108))
If Net Neutrality is repealed, it will directly hurt schools, educators, families and students. Once repealed, access to the internet, as we know it, will be very hard to put back in place.