Schools Could Be on Internet 'Slow Track' Under Proposed FCC Rules

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Questions arose about whether schools will have to stand in line for acceptable speeds of Internet access under proposed new rules floated by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

FCC commissioners received the rules, in advance of a May 15 vote. As written, the proposed rules would impact "net neutrality," which refers to the open and free flow of content on the Internet, regardless of where it originates.

The new rules would leave an opening for broadband Internet providers like Verizon Communications, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, to give preferential treatment to content providers that pay for the privilege of higher priority service.

For schools, the issue is problematic. Unless educational services are offered preferential treatment by providers, "schools could find themselves even further challenged to make use of digital learning tools and services," said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

The proposed rules could impact ed-tech companies, too. Larger ones might be well-positioned to pay for fast-lane service, while smaller ones and start-ups could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, said Amina Fazlullah, policy director of the Benton Foundation, a Washington-based organization that works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest. "Any net neutrality proposal must ensure the same quality access to online educational content as to entertainment and other commercial offerings," Fazlullah wrote. "We need to ensure that the Internet remains a medium for opportunity not just an opportunity for Internet providers to increase profits."

Schools Could Be on Internet 'Slow Track' Under Proposed FCC Rules