The Catalyst

“Net neutrality- All bits are created equal.”

– DailyTech

Is it up to the government to ensure net neutrality, the set of principles that guarantees equality for any person accessing the internet, regardless of the type of data people are using?

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Currently, there is a war being waged against net neutrality, one that manages to have large, multi-million (and billion) dollar corporations on the most dangerous end. On one side, lie companies such as Verizon and Comcast, companies that bring the internet to Americans as well as large media-giants, such as Facebook, neatly discouraging net neutrality in undeniably clever and manipulative ways. On the other side, lie people, people who claim net neutrality ensures advancement and cooperation. Even the inventor of the world wide web also speaks of net neutrality as an important part of his vision for the internet, stating “this principle of net neutrality has kept the Internet a free and open space since its inception… to foster collaboration and innovation.” Currently, lists of pros and cons, both for and against net neutrality have surfaced on the internet, which include information about the anti-discrimination principles that net neutrality is based upon, free market impingement, and service improvement by companies.

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Net neutrality in its most basic form: anti-discriminant internet use is a concept most would accept right off the bat. However, according to one study by the Rasmussen Reports, only twenty-one percent of Americans approve net neutrality. This concerning statistic led to the notion that net neutrality is an undeniably misunderstood concept, with many people simply against the notion of government regulation on the internet. The problem is, without this regulation, Big Business is able to eat up every megabyte of data online. As it turns out, the study was essentially bogus in its wording, as the Huffington Post points out, lending reader to believe that their is a glimmer of hope for net neutrality support across the globe.

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So, is net neutrality up to the government to regulate? Yes and no. It seems that the companies vying for it are the same ones who built it, made it usable, encourage competition, etc. They have constructed both the physical and virtual infrastructure of the internet. If the government regulates the internet, is it then up to them to design, implement, and maintain the infrastructure?

What does net neutrality mean for education?

According to one article, net neutrality is undeniably important for education as resources flood the web. The biggest concern is that net neutrality ensures that students and educators alike are not subject to “corporate interests” by use of the internet. This concern further branches into areas of online tools, textbooks, and even online classes. Schools would be subject to fees to be in the “fast lane” for the internet, ensuring that students in poorer communities lack equality online with their richer counterparts. Creativity and free speech of students is hindered as students are only able to access certain information. On the other side of the coin, one that seemingly does not exist online, is how the disintegration of net neutrality benefits education. Perhaps it doesn’t, but perhaps it wouldn’t hinder it either.

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The education system is tainted in a plethora of ways by “corporate interests.” Regardless of what the public dare to believe, students are learning the way they are as a result of Big Business. Most students are funnelled into the Average, those who will sit pleasantly in the middle for the rest of their lives, comfortable enough to not complain, but also not to try and move forward. Then there are the outliers. They will become the “CEOs,” leading and bossing the middle sector,  and the “Janitors,” cleaning up after everyone else’s mess. “Corporate interest” ensures that this system doesn’t change, and even though there are tiny revolutions happening in tiny classrooms across the westernized world, in the form of collaborative group activities and creative self-thinking, they haven’t made a big enough dent that Big Business is scared. Written curriculum, teacher unions, and common standard hierarchies (such as literacy and numeracy) still run the show.

Net neutrality simply brings to light a bigger and broader issue in education. Net neutrality acts only as the “aha” moment towards innovative, creative, and collaborative education. The internet has only been around for a minuscule fraction of the time that standardized education has. An important issue indeed, but only a catalyst towards free-er education.

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