Article by: Harley Harrison and Grant Siddal | Torch News Staff
The impact of ending net neutrality on students is unknown but it has the potential to hurt education.
Net neutrality, which is also referred to as the open internet, was a policy that requires all internet providers to treat all internet content equally so that users can access all websites with the same ease.
According to an article by ABC News, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in 2015 to consider consumer broadband service as a public utility, which fell under the Title II Order of the 1934 Communications Act. The FCC determined that the internet was a public utility similar to electricity and phone service companies.
But Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC voted again to reverse net neutrality policies, such as the one that considered the internet a public utility, according to a different article by ABC News. This rollback may contribute to the development of different speed lanes for websites, which could mean users will have to pay higher prices for faster speeds.
So what does this reversal mean for students?
According to an NPR interview of Richard Culatta, the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, the removal of net neutrality could have large impacts on students due to the amount of free materials available to students and teachers online.
With the removal of net neutrality, companies will be enabled to slow speeds of free content in an attempt to steer students and educators towards paid content, which will have a negative impact on education, especially in poor areas, according to the interview with Culatta.
While the issues mentioned by Culatta are more focused on K-12 schools and less on college, the same issues with accessing content applies to college students. For example, access to Google Scholar is currently available for free, however, with net neutrality repealed, Internet providers could throttle speeds to the site in order to steer users towards paid sites or charge extra for the use of the site.
Some Ferris students are worried about the ways that a repeal could negatively impact their lives as students and outside of school.
“I think that net neutrality impacts students in a huge way. Today a vast majority of our information comes from the Internet, even publishers are beginning to offer E-Books and learning material directly from a web browser,” Ferris computer information technology senior Ryan Fouts said. “If repealed, I feel that easily accessible information for students will become much more difficult. Internet prices may rise, Internet may get slower or be throttled, finding the right information may require subscriptions or special packages. These are things that no student wants to deal with in our already stressful lives.”
Entertainment industries could be another way that people are impacted by a repeal. Many streaming services like Netflix or Hulu could see reduced speeds from certain Internet providers and things like online gaming could see a similar fate.
“Outside of academics this will affect how I get a lot of my information news wise and also how I get my entertainment,” Ferris welding engineering senior Phil Sciriha said. “I am definitely hoping they don’t do anything to our Internet in terms of gaming, in terms of games like PUBG or League of Legends. I play all games of that nature. If they start messing with that it’s going to get really bad, really quickly. They are going to get a lot of backlash from gamers.”
The next step in the net neutrality battle is a vote by congress to repeal the FCC vote under the Congressional Review Act. US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the congressional vote does not need the support of the majority leader and that “[w]e can bring it to the floor and force a vote. So there will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed.”
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