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Net Neutrality and Higher Education

The internet is like a road in many ways, a road that has become increasingly more important for life and school, whether online or on-ground.  The actual roads of our internet highway were built in pieces by companies across the nation who laid cables, launched satellites and connected us in ways we had never been connected before.  It could be said that we have an interconnected system of “company-owned toll roads” as our national highways which have served us well and provided a catalyst for tremendous growth and opportunity.
 
Built upon a spirit of openness and access, the FCC ensured through net neutrality rules, that the highway remained so.  Essentially these rules required that we pay for usage of this system in the form of an all-access pass, to anywhere the road goes, (in as big of a car as we’d like).  As a caveat, there are currently self-selected speed limits on our usage in that your internet provider likely offered you tiered service, with pricing differences for different maximum speeds.  Even with these self-imposed limits, ultimately you can go where you want, and get what you want, without regard to how large a file(car), or what the file(car) is.
 
As of December 14th, this is no longer the case.  We still are operating on toll roads, but our toll road providers (ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, Spectrum, etc.) don’t have to offer us an all access pass anymore, and are now free to charge how they’d like.  While what they may do is speculation at this point, it is now possible for them to charge different prices and set variable speed limits, depending on where you are going and how big your car is (or what kind of car you drive).
 
Want to drive a Netflix semi back and forth all day?  You may pay extra...
 
Want to drive to school to learn, but the school can’t afford to compete with big multi-national media conglomerates for the "A-level" bandwidth, you may get slowed access, timed out video and pressure to somehow pay more.
 
At the institutions I've worked for, we have always been conscious of bandwidth as we serve our military students, and students in rural areas.  But now we have a new concern that the very fibers that connect us to our students, may be restricted, possibly manipulated or even exploited for financial gain, to the detriment of the most vulnerable among us, those who cannot afford to pay more.
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