From Neutrality to Inequality: Why the FCC Is Dismantling Equal Access and What It Could Mean for Education

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[Commentary] Faculty members who teach face-to-face may imagine that the vote by the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle net neutrality doesn’t touch them, since their instruction is exclusively on campus, not plugged in to the web. Unfortunately, they’re mistaken. Online or off, teaching and doing research in today’s immersive digital environment makes it almost impossible for anyone—even technophobes—to hide from the web. These days hardly a class exists at any college or university that operates without logging onto a learning management system. The college library, catalog, financial aid, admissions, registration, and of course, the school’s website, all have important digital services and are all easily accessible on the net. Today, no one can teach, perform research, issue grades, enroll, or engage in a thousand and one other routine functions, without clicking on a computer or smartphone. Like blood rushing through the university’s veins, the internet is the juice that connects everything. The new FCC rules do not follow in the liberated direction imagined by the internet’s inventors. With ISPs given the reckless authority to block and shutdown sites, academic freedom is a potential target—along with other guarantees of equal access. [Robert Ubell is vice dean emeritus of online learning at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, and author of the collection, Going Online: Perspectives on Digital Learning]


From Neutrality to Inequality: Why the FCC Is Dismantling Equal Access and What It Could Mean for Education