Net Neutrality: Possible Implications

By: Sebastiane Caballes, Contributor

DISCLAIMER: The scenarios, opinions, and views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of the writer or publisher. The content below depicts possible events that could occur following the recent repeal of the Net Neutrality Act.

After much controversy and debate, the FCC came to a 3-2 vote in favor of repealing the Net Neutrality Act signed into law by the Obama administration in 2015. Social media networks and sites such as Netflix and Hulu are the services most Americans fear will be affected. However, educational services and material that millions of students access and use every day may suffer the most from this repeal.

In regards to the repeal itself, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated the move was simply “…restoring the light touch framework that has governed the internet for much of its existence…” and that a return to Title I regulations will “…help consumers and promote competition..” in a statement made prior to the December 14th vote. Pai’s comments look to establish this repeal as a move in the right direction.

Under the regulations and protections within the Net Neutrality Act, Internet Service Providers-otherwise known as ISPS-could not throttle the speed of or give preferential treatment to certain sites or services. These provisions intend to prevent events such as those that occurred in 2012 when Comcast throttled speeds to consumers trying to access Netflix and similar streaming products in an effort to push their own services. A similar scenario could come to fruition with this recent repeal. Corporations may move to throttle access to services, pushing their own products instead and significantly impacting student’s abilities to access crucial information. Some may even go as far as requiring the payment of certain plans or services to reach these sites or face a brutally slow connection speed.

As unfathomable as it currently seems, we could soon be facing a situation where digital educational material becomes accessible to only those who are able to pay. Commonly used educational sites will be rendered inaccessible due to horrendous connection speeds. Some may even be placed behind a paywall. Communities and school districts unable to afford and adapt to these changes will, unfortunately, be left behind in the age where education is rapidly becoming digitalized. In a period where our education system continues to lag behind other countries, this will only further deepen the hole American education is in.

Educational platforms will undoubtedly also face the negative fallout behind this repeal as well. Competing providers may seek to purchase these sites and platforms in an attempt to monopolize the industry. Smaller platforms will lose income and traffic as corporations will scramble to block and throttle competitors in an effort to divert traffic towards their own products and services. The ability for a start-up to get off the ground nigh impossible as established organizations will fork over funds to receive preferential treatment from providers. While a deregulated internet may seem “more free” in regards to corporate maneuvering, the loss of innovation and growth from smaller platforms and developing sites protected under Net Neutrality will be striking.

Regardless of which side you stand on, as a student/educator, or an educational platform, Net Neutrality is a pivotal component of the freedom of the internet and education. It provides the necessary regulations and protections to allow students to access information and material essential to furthering their education. However, we may very well soon face ourselves losing all of it with this recent FCC repeal.

Photo Credits: By U.S. Department of Agriculture Lance Cheung/Photographer (20170615-OSEC-LSC-0420) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons