To the Editor:
Barely a week after Education Week reported school districts’ well-founded concerns over a court ruling against net neutrality that favored Verizon and other telecoms (U.S. Court Ruling Raises K-12 Concerns About Internet Access, Jan. 29, 2014), I saw a headline on an Associated Press article proclaiming: “Tech Companies Commit $750 Million in Products and Services to Schools.”
Sounds like some companies hope to buy off opposition.
Even if these technology companies agreed to provide free, high-speed Wi-Fi in perpetuity to every U.S. school, educators should be wary, because effective instruction requires Internet access at home, not just in school buildings.
So, who should be advocating for the preservation of net neutrality? Anyone using flipped or blended learning. Every home schooler. Every teacher who expects students to participate in classroom wikis, voice threads, or other online conversations. Teachers who assign (or would like to assign) work requiring Internet research. Media-literacy students who work on projects outside the classroom. Every school with a student-run news show that is shared with the community. Every school that sends laptops or tablets home with students with hopes that parents will work with their children. Every school that hopes to use Internet-based tools to improve communication with parents. Every classroom, team, club, or activity with a Web page that includes video or podcasts.
In other words, every school district in the country ought to be asking the Federal Communications Commission to do everything in its power to preserve net neutrality.
Free Wi-Fi for every school building would be wonderful, and technology companies should be thanked for stepping up when they provide it. But, as advocates like freepress.net have explained, it won’t do much good if tech companies have the exclusive power to make the decisions about what is easily available.
Free Internet connection for schools is not a substitute for net neutrality.
Media Literacy Education Specialist
A version of this article appeared in the February 19, 2014 edition of Education Week as Effective Instruction Necessitates Preservation of ‘Net Neutrality’