How will the Net Neutrality ruling impact education?


Old apple

As Pando covered, a federal appeals court struck down Net Neutrality this week. Internet Service Providers will now be able to stick some websites in the “slow lane of loading” while others get faster coverage. This has a lot of implications for a variety of sectors, including education.

Campus Technology has an in-depth article exploring how the ruling could impact schools. Because it’s likely that ISPs will allow content providers who pay more to make timelier, faster delivery, those who can’t pay more will wind up with a slower Internet connection.

The list of who can’t pay more in education is extensive: public schools with tight budgets, non-profit educational organizations, small private programs. Michael Berman, CSU Channel Islands’ VP of Technology, says, “It’s not hard to imagine… a network where the video for courses from the University of Phoenix or Coursera run quickly, but those from edX and your local community college run at slower speed and lower resolution.”

Furthermore, the Net Neutrality verdict could wind up impacting the move to the cloud in education. As Education Week has covered, many schools are in the process of migrating documents and programs onto the cloud, through Amazon or Rackspace’s services. If Internet Service Providers wind up requiring data storage companies like these to pay more to deliver content in a timely fashion, the additional cost will likely be passed down to the cloud customers themselves. Public schools, for the most part, can’t bear that burden and therefore might be stopped from moving data infrastructure to the cloud the way the private sector has.

A third potential impact from the Net Neutrality ruling has to do with MOOCs. As The Chronicle of Higher Education explored, students are unlikely to get their education through Massive, Open, Online Courses if said courses are delivered on slow or unreliable connections. After all, they usually include hour long video lectures, highly annoying to stop and start for frequent loading. Will the MOOC providers, which include both universities and private startups, be willing and able to pony up the extra costs for faster speeds? Will they in turn pass the cost onto students, making the MOOCs slightly less open than before?

Lastly, the striking down of Net Neutrality may impact students’ ability to do research. The head of the American Librarian Association, Barbara Stripling, wrote an op-ed in Wired against the court’s ruling. In the post, Stripling pointed out that prioritizing sites that can pay over those that can’t will make it harder for students to access a range of important information, from online government documentation to distance learning classes.

She says, “[W]ithout net neutrality, we are in danger of prioritizing Mickey Mouse and Jennifer Lawrence over William Shakespeare and Teddy Roosevelt.”