Twenty-one States and the District of Columbia, and several public interest groups, filed the first major lawsuit Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Net Neutrality rules, marking the start of a high-stakes legal battle over the future of the Internet. New York Attorney General Eric Sneiderman, who is leading the suit, said the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law.
The FCC’s rules had prohibited internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. The lawsuits came just a day after Senate Democrats said they were inching closer to the votes needed for a legislative measure to help overturn the FCC’s rules. Their resolution aims to reverse the FCC’s decision and block the agency from passing similar legislation in the future. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic Senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Long live America’s Net Neutrality!
It’s almost been twenty years since American schools began having access to funding to wire their schools though the federally funded e-Rate program administered by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Unfortunately, if you live in a poor rural area of this country, you will still find that the speed and reliability of connections to your schools are not what they are in your state’s larger cities or more populous communities. It will not be high-speed Internet. In fact, teachers and students may be spending more time trying to connect to the Internet than in actually teaching and learning with it. I know Al Gore has moved on to saving the world’s environment but we could really use his help on this one since he very instrumental when all this began during the Clinton years. He must be feeling our pain.
There are a relatively small number of schools and communities that have this lack of needed connectivity, but our larges telecommunications companies seem to have little interest in connecting to them. And there is little competition to provide services. Seven percent of U.S. schools nationwide fail to find bidders when looking to upgrade Internet connectivity according to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Should our federal, state and local governments be doing more? Or should we just let a “free market” take care of all this. Students in many European and Asian countries have better connectivity. (See U.S. Department of Education report on International Experiences with Technology in Education, http://tech.ed.gov/files/2013/10/iete-full-report-1.doc).
I know there are many geopolitical and geographic challenges that are unique to our American schools. But we are, or can be, “great” again as we will continue to hear throughout this campaign year. Let’s make our schools part of that challenge, promise?
It’s all in the palm of your hand. Or is it really? Many tech experts and forecasters see the smartphone as being the technology tool that will connect rural America, and perhaps the rest of the world to the Internet. For example, eighty-five percent of the Choctaw Nation in rural Oklahoma stay connected by using them. Similarly, many rural citizens in India rely on this mobile service for enhancing their children’s education and their own communications with family and friends. Half-way around the world from each other yet relying on these small digital devices as their best resources for knowing more about the larger world. Is it really that simple?
I am always amazed at the amount of “palm-gazing” I see everywhere I go now (not as widely traveled as I used to be, but I still think far enough to give me a good sample size). I first noticed this phenomenon in the summer of 2008 when I returned to a part of India where I had served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mid-sixties. Mobile phones were quickly being adopted as a preferred means of connecting with others. There were clearly technical limitations to their use in the most rural areas of India, but I think most users were learning how they could become more active participants in the Information Age. Their formal educational system was simply becoming less relevant in the dawn of the twenty-first century.
But is something being lost as we gain something new. Are our mobile devices our new “best friends.” They will always be with us, and really don’t demand too much from us. Maybe they are really outsmarting us, if we let them?
So we all know that Japan has been a world leader in producing technology that has changed our modern lives. And of course we probably all think of Tokyo, Osaka, and other Japanese urban centers as the leading metropoloses of the 21st Century in forging such technological change. I was fortunate enough to have spent an academic semester in rural Japan, north of Osaka in the fall 1997, and made frequent return visits to all parts of Japan over the first decade of this century. Many innovators in the Japanes schools were sure that educational technology would be adopted by the Japanese Ministry and find its way into the Japanese schools as seamlessly as was the case in the U.S. This was not to be true in Japan, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most importantly that a centralized Ministry of Education in Japan was still in control of curricular and instructional decisions across the country. Individual teachers and other educational leaders certainly championed the advantages of educational technology at all levels, but making such “official” changes rested with the Ministerial officials, many senior career bureaucrats.
Now it seems that technology may be changing the very life styles of many young Japanese professionals working in tech-related industries. They can work in a more relaxed rural setting not so much regulated by the ticking of the clock but much more by the sharing of time with colleagues and families in a less structured urban setting. Similarly, these families also seem to enjoy the collaborative community aspect of working there which already seems to support more creativity in their professional lives. Technology becomes the tool that they use to make their lives and work more meaningful. They are not tied to the ticking of the clock and the timing of the trains in their urban commutes.
Please know that I feel that the Japanese culture and people are to be commended for their generous and innovative spirit. We too have much to learn from them, and technology can help us learn more about more of what Japan has to offer outside of its urban centers too.