K-12 schools should act as new net neutrality era arrives
Friday, June 29, 2018
In May, the U.S. Senate voted to restore net neutrality rules, and school districts are hopeful that the bill will eventually become law, overturning the Federal Communication Commission’s December 2017 vote.
The possibility of an open internet ensures access to high-quality educational resources.
Tech companies, too, praised the move, but it’s still a wait-and-see situation for our schools. If the bill dies in the House, or on President Trump’s desk, then K-12 schools should brace themselves for the new era of no net neutrality, which officially began on June 11.
School officials need to be aware of all the major implications and work on easing the transition, as technology is at the heart of education today.
Districts are looking at innovative ways to embed the use of technology and the internet into the learning environment of schools. The end of net neutrality may jeopardize that process. There will no longer be a guarantee of access to all content regardless of perspective or source for educators.
Experts in the field have voiced concerns that people who support the repeal do not know the vital role that internet plays in education. Now, there is the chance that ISPs will decide what content is free, what information customers will receive, and whether the information delivered will be fast or slow.
A major issue is that school districts do not have a set methodology or regulatory process to deal with these effects. The repeal can give ISPs the power to make money at the expense of public education.
That, in turn, will impact the nature and pace of the changes felt. It will affect the schools’ ability to stream content and learn online.
What to expect:
The cost to connect will increase.
ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are no longer required to treat all online traffic equally. They can operate the internet as a utility and create "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" for content.
ISPs may even lock the use of specific services, websites or platforms behind paywalls. This could further push the overall costs of internet up.
Chances are that free or open-source educational content will be the first to end up in the slow lanes.
This will have severe consequences for schools and vulnerable learners in rural and low-income communities. It will also widen the homework gap in these areas.
Preferential treatment for some.
Depending on budgets, school districts will be disproportionately affected. Some will be at the losing end of the bargain while their affluent counterparts thrive with the new rules.
Internet "fast lanes" could be available for those willing to pay more while those who can’t might face reduced connection speeds. In a classroom where several children are attempting to stream videos and access lessons at the same time, this could have disastrous effects.
Innovation in ed tech will be affected.
Small startups with new education technology offerings may feel the brunt of the repeal. They have been especially innovative in K-12 offerings.
But now they may not be able to afford the high fees for speedier access, which stands to affect their products. Viable ed tech platforms, especially those that utilize gamification and videos, may diminish.
Telecommunications companies have assured users that customer experience won’t suffer. But with no legal barrier preventing them from repealing services, many K-12 ed tech platforms stand to suffer.
The new ruling states that ISPs have to disclose any policy changes. School officials will need to stay on top of these announcements and prepare themselves for the future.
Addressing changes right away can minimize the impact of the repeal. They need to reassess the district’s budget and choose ed tech platforms that will not result in extra cost.
Depending on the ISP, paid content may be preferred over freely available content. If this happens, then teachers will have to adjust and redo their lesson plans.
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