Category Archives: Net Neutrality

Saving the Internet, One ISP at a Time…

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Since my last post on the Net Neutrality debate, there have been some developments that are positive. On August 1st, the FCC punished ComCast for illegally blocking Internet content. For the full story, see the SavetheInternet site, and particularly this post on the historic FCC decision. An excerpt:

In a landmark decision, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein approved a bipartisan “enforcement order” that would require Comcast to stop blocking and publicly disclose its methods for manipulating Internet traffic.

Tests by the Associated Press and others showed that Comcast blocked users’ legal peer-to-peer transmissions by sending fake signals that cut off the connection between file-sharers. Today’s decision follows a months-long FCC investigation, launched in response to a complaint from Free Press and Public Knowledge urging the federal agency to stop Comcast’s blocking.

More detailed information on the FCC decision can also be found here. This is good news, also for education. However, heavy filtering of Internet content is still common practice in many schools. Unfortunately, the FCC can’t help us there …

And as stated here , “This victory is monumental. But the fight to safeguard Net Neutrality is far from over.”

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Net Neutrality Debate Still Far From Over, and the Saga Continues

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Even though I’ve been writing mostly on mobile devices and learning as of late, the Net Neutrality issue is one that continues to be just as important (and connected to mobile as well, with the current push toward developing the mobile web further. posted a guest piece by John Kerry yesterday asking for feedback about Net Neutrality. And feedback he got!! It’s actually more interesting to read than the post itself. There were 101 responses as of the writing of this post.

In short, people who commented on Kerry’s post unanimously support Net Neutrality and condemn the big ISPs such as Comcast. Their comments can be roughly sorted into the following categories:

  • Protection of people’s rights such as freedom of speech against government and big corporate interests. According to Dale: The brilliance of the internet is that it provides everyone with an equal voice, an equal chance to be heard. To excel, to fail and to try again. To express alternate views in a world dominated by big commercial interests or repressive/regressive governments. To allow anyone to control this medium for purely commercial gain it, is to silence the voices we may most need to hear. Read also DynamicUno’s comments.
  • Protection of small businesses: for example, Internetman states that I am a small business owner of an internet-based travel business. My wife and I rely exclusively on our websites for income. Because of network neutrality, we are able to compete for business with such giants as Microsoft’s Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz and make a very good living. If network neutrality was removed, our entire livelihood would be destroyed. I can’t afford to pay any premiums just to put my business on the same level playing field as these internet titans, I would have no option but to fold my business.
  • Curbing big ISP abuses against customers and small ISPs: As cookseytalbott states: look at their behavior, censoring email from political sites, throttling applications like bittorrent, not fixing the golden mile, breech of privacy agreements for government domestic spying, not tending to massive bot nets on infected PC’s on their networks, random blacklisting of IP’s.

While education is mentioned here and there, mainly with regards to access to information for research and learning, it is not mentioned much. Imagine what could/would happen if government allowed the telcos (in this case Comcast and SBC) to basically control all Internet traffic. It is analogous to the ways in which governments and churches controlled society in the Middle Ages, by controlling the education of its people. Few people learned to read and write, and what they learned was determined mostly by the church, backed by the government. It wasn’t until the printing press (the Internet of the Middle Ages) was invented that things started to change, and many in power feared that the printing press would ultimately put them out of business. 

A free and unregulated Internet is a necessity for a democracy to work in today’s world. A democracy needs people who can think, be creative, have access to information that covers more than one point of view, and can express their opinions without the fear of being silenced by those in power who happen to disagree.

In any event, Net Neutrality is and remains an extremely important issue that seems to be disregarded by most major media outlets (I wonder why….). And as Crystal states in her comments:

If the internet does not remain free, you can change the Pledge of Allegiance to this

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Corporations of America and to the profits for which they stand, two nations, divided, with plenty for the favored few and slavery for the rest of us.”

A free people need education and information in order to act intelligently.

Please post your feedback here or with, even better, Kerry’s post.

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Net Neutrality Debate Still Far From Over

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As an update on my previous post on the fight over net neutrality, here is an article from MSNBC that discusses how Comcast has been blocking some Internet traffic on its networks. According to the article by Peter Svensson:

Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.

While the article mostly discusses the issue of blocking content in general, especially with regards to file-sharing, an interesting question remains how this type of practice can potentially affect education, both formal and informal.

There is also a lively discussion about the Comcast practice, which can be found here. Most posts seem to oppose Comcast’s practices.

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Update on Net Neutrality: The Fight Is Far from Over

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As I’ve written about before, the fight about net neutrality is far from over. According to Robert Niles, editor of the Online Journalism Review of the Annenberg School of Communication at USC, “It’s up to Congress now to protect net neutrality.” He states that:

Today, the United States Justice Department came out against “Net Neutrality,” endorsing the concept of allowing telecom companies to decide which websites and online services it will allow its customers to access, and at what speeds. The U.S. Congress must respond swiftly, by enacting legislation to preserve net neutrality and protect the interests of small publishers and private citizens.

Niles’ post is definitely worth a thorough reading, as well as the Justice Department’s press release. I agree with Niles that the Internet has made possible

the explosion in people-powered media over the past decade, which was made possible by the unprecedented ability of individuals, anywhere, to publish to a global platform, on an equal footing with corporate media.

It’s funny that this story should rear its head again, considering some of the things I’ve been working on lately.  First off, I spent three days at Purdue at the end of July, at the Ackerman Colloquium themed “Educating for Citizenship in Digital and Synthetic Worlds: Privacy, Protection, and Participation.” It’s funny though that we didn’t talk much about issues such as net neutrality though. A large part of the conversation seemed to revolve around the use of games for teaching social studies, which is something I’m not entirely convinced of (yet).

Secondly, I’ve spent the last three weeks or so working on an NSF-funded project called Thinking With Data, a project designed to teach middle school kids data literacy across the curriculum (see NSF, this newspaper article  and this press release for more info). It’s an important project because, to quote  Andee Rubin from TERC:

We use data every day—to choose medications or health practices, to decide on a place to live, or to make judgments about education policy and practice. The newspapers and TV news are full of data about nutrition, side effects of popular drugs, and polls for current elections. Surely there is valuable information here, but how do you judge the reliability of what you read, see, or hear?  This is no trivial skill—and we are not preparing students to make these critical and subtle distinctions.

What I’ve learned from our project so far is that, on average, kids’ data literacy skills are not very strong, and having an Internet that is not “neutral” will make matters only worse when it comes to teach youngsters how to judge data for what it’s really worth.

Feels good to be back. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in almost two months. I have been lurking off and on though, and while I did take some time off, I worked most of the summer. Not sure yet how I’m going to get caught up with all of my feeds. I’m planning to focus my writing in the coming year on a couple of topics that have been of great interest to me: learning while mobile/mobile learning, and citizenship education and digital tools.

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Update on Net Neutrality and the Importance of Saving the Internet

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Technology Review has a nicely done update on the Net Neutrality issue, Net Neutrality: Far from a Done Deal,  by Wade Roush. According to the article,

the fight isn’t over. It’s still possible that certain types of tiered Internet access will emerge in the near future. That’s partly due to political and business realities: no bill is assured of passage in the still fractious 110th Congress, and AT&T’s concessions contain loopholes that allow the company to move forward with premium services such as U-Verse, which is all about extending fiber-optic fast lanes to customers’ homes. But the situation is also a consequence of the march of technology. New bandwidth-intensive applications such as YouTube-style video downloads and peer-to-peer file sharing are clogging the network so quickly, researchers say, that service providers may be forced to start charging more to carry certain types of data.

Obviously, ISPs have to be compensated for transmitting Internet data. HOWEVER, allowing ISPs to treat data from different sources in different ways is discriminatory, both against the data source, as well as its consumers. As many people have said before, the beauty of the Internet is that it’s neutral, and based on developments in technology, business practices, and politics, we need some kind of federal legislation to keep it that way. For current efforts in that realm, see

Why is net neutrality, “the principle that Internet operators should handle all the data they transport the same way, without special “fast lanes” open only to those who can afford them” (quoted from Net Neutrality: Far from a Done Deal) so important? There are several reasons:

  • By now the Internet is a primary source of information for many people, whether it be by way of desktop, laptop, or wireless mobile device. As discussed by Judy Breck in 109 ideas for virtual learning, the Internet is the place of a new knowledge ecology, a place where knowledge is accessed, aggregated, networked, and created. She advocates for open content, andthat education practice today does little more than toy with the emerging innovation of digital connectivity—when, in fact, a new knowledge ecology it causes will have to become central to global learning for education as an institution to remain relevant into the future. 

You may believe that education does not belong in the open chaos of the emerging Internet. But thinking that misses a wonderful new cognitive order of learning that emerges from the chaos of connected knowledge. Education should be right in there with the other major elements in the ubiquitous mix of the Web world. The openness of the content within the Internet is a change for learning that is as complete as the invention of phonetic symbols was for language. But that is getting ahead of our story.

Net neutrality is not just a geek thing; it’s a generation thing.  If we want to build a world where youth have a voice online, we have to keep the net neutral.  Hopefully, youth mean more to us than their consumer power.

Twice as many Americans used the internet as their primary source of news about the 2006 campaign compared with the most recent mid-term election in 2002.

Some 15% of all American adults say the internet was the place where they got most of their campaign news during the election, up from 7% in the mid-term election of 2002.

A post-election survey shows that the 2006 race also produced a notable class of online political activists. Some 23% of those who used the internet for political purposes – the people we call campaign internet users – actually created or forwarded online original political commentary or politically-related videos.

See also Micah Sifrey’s post on the Personal Democracy Forum about the report.  While the Internet is important for the political process in the US, it is even more important for continents like Africa and South America, where wireless mobile phones are increasingly used for political activism. See for example this article about mobile phone use and its impact in Kenya, or this piece on the use of SMS in Venezuela to get voters to the polls.

 Obviously, an open and neutral Internet in itself is not enough. The younger generations who are using this evermore participatory medium as their main source for information access, aggregation, creation, and sharing need to learn more than just technical skills to use it to its fullest potential. We all know that youngsters usually have no problems learning how to use a new digital tool. The key is to provide them with opportunities to learn what to use these tools for, other than entertainment.

According to the New Media Literacies Project, we need to train kids with skills for participatory culture. The NML’s essay discusses the current media landscape as innovative, transformative, convergent, multimodal, global, networked, mobile, appropriative, participatory, collaborative, diverse, domesticated, generational, and unequal. While kids are already participating by way of affiliation (think social networking sites), collaborative problem solving (gaming), and media sharing.

However, the NML Project essay sees this participation as being accompanied by several challenges:

Challenge 1: The Participation Gap — the unequal distribution of these opportunities to participate and thus the unequal distribution of the skills and knowledge which emerge from these practices.

Challenge 2: Ethics — The expansion of the public roles played by children and youth in this new participatory culture raises new responsibilities that they are often unprepared to accept and that are badly understood by the adults surrounding them. Each of these forms of participation represent both opportunities and risks.

Challenge 3: The Transparency Problem — While kids are getting better at using media as resources for doing other things (creative expression, research, social life, etc.), they often show limited ability to examine the media themselves, question the ways that they structure their experiences or shape their content, and the contexts in which they operate.

Challenge 4: Evaluation — Students, parents and teachers remain uncertain about how to
evaluate work produced using these new media and how it might connect with earlier forms of expression.

To overcome these challenges, the NML Project suggest a set of preliminary and a set of emerging skills that kids should acquire, and that this should happen through  multiple levels of intervention:

1. School based — designed to integrated into existing school disciplines
2. after-school programs — designed to expand creative opportunities for kids in a way which also emphasizes the cultural context and ethical consequences of those practices.
3. informal learning — collaboration with creative industries to insure that ideas about media literacy feed back into popular culture.
4. teacher training — designed to provide teachers with models for classroom practices which foster the new media literacies.
5. parents training — designed to give parents the knowledge and skills they need to foster media literacy in preschool children and to support the informal learning of their school aged offspring. 

What I really like about this approach is that the interventions go way beyond the space and time in which formal education takes place, and involves the education of parents! For another discussion of the New Media Literacy Project essay, see Christopher Sessum’s post Skills for 21st Century Learners: Preparing ourselves for participatory culture, in which he concludes that

In the end, The Project NML essay serves as a lesson in school reform that focuses on how educators should be thinking about literacy education, communication competencies, and schoolings impact on our collective citizenry — not simply academic achievement. Getting educators to adopt such a stance will take longer than most of us are comfortable with, but alas, it comes with the territory.

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Threats to Ubiquitous Computing

As I was perusing blogs this morning, I ran across this post from Will Richardson regarding competing bills dealing with “Net Neutrality”.  An excerpt from what Will says about the bill that would regulate Internet access pricing:

While this bill does not in any way regulate what Internet users can access, it does begin to set up a system where the haves get more in terms of faster and better connectivity for video distribution, multimedia sharing and more. To me, at least, it feels like a dangerous precedent, and another way potentially for some of our more fortunate kids to get a leg up on those who may not be able to pay.

I strongly agree with Will that if this bill passes, we could have some real issues on our hands with regards to Internet access. If this bill passes, a lot of work that has been done in recent years to provide Internet access to those who have the most difficult time getting it could be undone with one pen stroke (and not even a digital pen!!). Imagine what it could potentially do to Internet access to schools and public libraries, which are important points of access to information for our children, but also places that don’t tend to have a lot of money. Imagine what it can do to Web 2.0 and the plethora of free social sharing tools. They work because they are freely accessible (for the most part).

Despite all of its issues, the beauty of the Internet is that it does not discriminate against its users. Let’s try to keep it that way.

Here are some links to check out:

technorati tags: net_neutrality, ubicomp