What does the impending FCC shift away from net neutrality mean for education and technology?
Yesterday I posted my interview with EDUCAUSE’s policy director. Jarret Cummings explained that organization’s position in favor of net neutrality.
Today the Chronicle of Higher Education published a column by the leaders of two more education and technology organizations. ISTE is represented by Joseph South, that group’s new chief learning officer. The New Media Consortium (NMC) appears in the form of its chief executive officer, Eden Dahlstrom.* . Together they argue that “is the very foundation of our ability to research, to educate, and to innovate. When net neutrality ends this month, we will see that foundation start to crumble.”
Dahlstrom and South make a series of major points, and I recommend you read the whole (short) piece. I’ll pull out some key ones here. Each of these are connected to core functions of educational enterprises.
First, ending net neutrality is bad for equitable internet (and therefore educational opportunity) access. “[L]osing the neutrality of the net threatens to re-stratify access to information and resources that provide both equity and access to knowledge.” This is especially bad at a time when many in education are concerned about unfair access to education via race, class, region, gender, and religion.
Second, digital learning costs could rise:
[Campus] systems are data-dependent and, at scale, rely on real-time information. Without net neutrality, a major internet provider could charge the vendor that created the tools extra for high-speed analysis, delivery, or on-demand integration to university systems via expensive “fast lanes.” Those additional costs would very likely be passed along to students via higher tuition or fees.
Third, the pace of research and invention could slow, given dependence on digital networks:
When the telescope you’re controlling is in Chile and the terabytes of data it generates are shared by your collaborators in Germany, anything short of open, unfettered access to the internet would slow the speed of research, delaying scientific discovery and invention.
Once again, this point becomes especially meaningful in the context of concerns about encouraging innovation or boosting scholarly achievement. Think about how it also connects with rankings of institutional reputation, which often key off of research publications and recognition.
Overall, this article is a good one to share with people who don’t understand the importance of net neutrality for education and technology.
It also represents a rising tide of publicly expressed concern from leading education and technology groups. That’s ISTE, NMC, and EDUCAUSE. Cummings mentioned working with NACUBO, ARL, and ACE. It looks like higher education is starting to come together in favor of net neutrality, and against the FCC’s impending decision. This is an unusual show of common cause, pointing to just how serious the problem is.
What are our next steps?
*In the spirit of full disclosure, I have had many professional engagements with NMC, from being a research fellow to keynoting their annual conference to writing for them.