The Importance of #NetNeutrality For Students

I’ve been asked a lot lately to explain Net Neutrality and why it’s something that we should support. I’m a huge believer in trying to see both sides of an argument and find some empathy for the side I disagree with, I cannot find one reason other than make the rich companies richer. I’d much rather our entire country have access to what they need to be progressive members of society.

I’m going to put a video below, it’s my favorite I’ve seen so far, and I’ve watched over 50. Right now you can click on that link and watch that video as long as you have internet. In Portugal, where there is no net Neutrality, your ISP would slow down the streaming from YouTube site and you would have to pay a subscription to view it. And even if your internet/data allows it, you probably will still need a subscription for when on another wifi service.

Thinking that Net Neutrality will never affect you directly because you might not care that much to watch Netflix or look at memes on Reddit is a closed and selfish mindset. When people in lower income situations no longer have access to something that can help them get jobs, learn, communicate, and see the world beyond their neighborhood, you are adding to the poverty cycle. Something that does affect our country as a whole. You see because Net Neutrality, low income families can apply for affordable internet access and get a low cost device (or in many cases loaned to them by school district) and use the internet as needed. This may no longer be the case. Imagine assigning homework for your students to watch a short clip embedded in a Google Form and answer a reflection question, right now probably 90% of your students could do this assignment at home on their internet or phone data. Now look to the future without Net Neutrality, that number will drastically increase. Today, that 10% that couldn’t watch at home could go to McDonald’s or Target or even school to complete assignment, now those situations may change and it would be more difficult to find access to watch video.

Over 10 years ago a professor at MIT, Nicholas Negroponte, came up with this idea of a $100 laptop for children in underdeveloped countries. It was called One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), you might have heard of it or remember the cute little green eared laptops. The project as a whole was a huge failure but there were a few takeaways from the research from it. First, it did not improve test scores in the more developed countries, what non-educators consider most important, but it did improve cognitive skills. Even with no instruction for teachers or students how to use students became better thinkers and problem solvers. It also was somewhat controversial in some countries because it increased children’s curiosity. See these places didn’t have internet so the computers created these mesh networks where they connected to each other. Students were on the computers collaborating and sharing information, not just being fed facts or what they are supposed to think. If only one laptop had internet the others could mesh onto that system so they were able to research from around the world. Their world was no longer contained to one location and it caused a new type of learning.

Try to make a list of everything you learned (not academically but in general) today from the internet or through communication/collaboration with someone not face to face. Pretty long list, isn’t it? The idea of taking away access to something that can help these cognitive skills needed for this crazy future world we are heading into is mind blowing to me. I remember in 2007 writing a research paper on the digital divide, every year I have seen that divide become smaller, we still have a way to go, but it’s better. We should be moving in the direction of decreasing the divide NOT finding ways to take away freedoms that come from living in this country.

If hurting other people’s chances at a better life doesn’t bother you, the way this was handled should. The polls show that 83% of Americans support Net Neutrality. The FCC committee that took it away voted party lines, 3 Republicans vs 2 Democrats. They didn’t care about what Americans thought and even turned their backs on their own party, 75% of Republicans support Net Neutrality. Speaking out for Net Neutrality is not being selfish because we don’t want to pay for anything, it’s because it will hurt so much more than taking away people’s Netflix.