by Félix Pérez; image courtesy of SalFalko
In a win for schools and students, the US Senate voted, 52-47, to reinstate a federal rule that prohibits internet service providers from selectively speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. The vote to restore “net neutrality” protections is particularly significant for public schools, which serve both as customers procuring internet access and as critical providers of internet access to students.
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Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of whether it’s conducting research, posting pictures, exchanging information or streaming. It also means Internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T or Verizon, can’t favor their own content over a competitor’s. Without net neutrality, ISPs could throttle, restrict and control the Internet landscape.
In a letter to the Senate, Marc Egan, the National Education Association’s director of government relations, wrote:
From the potential chilling of first amendment free speech rights to inequitable limitations on access, the repeal of net neutrality raises several significant concerns for public education for our students, educators, schools, and higher education institutions. The internet serves as an open platform for all our educators and the students in their classrooms – no matter their geographic locale or socio-economic status – to exchange information and ideas, create content, engage in civic and intellectual discourse, conduct research, and enhance teaching and learning in our schools and communities across the country.
The Senate vote was in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s decision late last year to repeal net neutrality. The GOP-controlled FCC struck the rule despite the fact that more than eight of every 10 voters oppose the repeal.
The matter now goes to the U.S House of Representatives and, if passed there, to President Trump. The House has not scheduled a vote, and observers consider it unlikely Republican leaders will take it up.
Nevertheless, educators and consumer activists will continue to push the issue. “Access to the internet continues to serve as a great equalizer for students – no
matter their zip code – and net neutrality is key to its continued transformative power in our classrooms and our in our students’ lives.”