California's CUE Supports State Effort to Maintain Federal Net Neutrality Rules

An organization that works with school people in California to help them "infuse" technology into learning, has come out — fists swinging — to fight what it perceives as a move to limit students' access to the internet. CUE, which runs annual technology conferences for educators, announced that it would lead efforts to help get a new joint resolution passed by the state's Assembly. AJR-7 encourages the President of the United States and members of Congress to maintain the current standards of "net neutrality" reinforced by the Federal Communications Commission last year.

Net neutrality is the term used to describe how broadband internet providers should enable access to all content and applications, without blocking, slowing or otherwise discriminating against any websites or online services.

Currently, the FCC, under new Republican-led leadership, is considering dismantling rules put in place under the previous administration. Going under the name, "Restoring Internet Freedom," the deregulation activities would roll back rules that put limits on the activities of broadband providers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Trump, has stated that the Internet Freedom changes he has introduced would "spur broadband deployment," bringing "better, faster Internet service to more Americans"; boost "competition and choice" in the marketplace; and "secure online privacy" by putting the Federal Trade Commission in charge of broadband providers' privacy practices.

Opponents view the deregulation activities as just the opposite. "It would allow broadband providers to favor their own content over others and pick winners and losers on the internet," said FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Terrell McSweeny in a joint statement. "It would also create an environment where neither the FCC nor FTC could protect the privacy of the customers of some of our largest broadband companies." The result, they added, would be positioning broadband providers to "shape the future of internet content, mine and sell sensitive personal information and limit consumer access to the internet in whatever manner they think will bring them the most profit."

Educators are concerned that access for public entities such as schools and colleges that can't afford to pay extra fees for prioritized access could be pushed to the "slow lane" on the internet.

The California resolution is more of an advisory to the FCC than anything else. Introduced by Assembly Member and Speaker Pro-Tem, Kevin Mullin, AJR-7 urges the president and Congress to continue to protect net neutrality and open internet access, as well as the E-rate program providing discounted telecommunication and Internet access to schools and libraries and the Lifeline program, which offers discounted Internet access to low-income customers.

"We cannot expect students to be successful if we take away or limit their ability to access the internet," said Mike Lawrence, CUE's CEO, in a statement announcing CUE's support for AJR-7. "Reliable broadband is absolutely essential for both our students and our teachers to be successful. Dependable access allows educators to significantly expand teaching and learning opportunities."

CUE's Legislative Policy Consultant, John Cradler, described the decision to initiate and support AJR-7 as being "first and foremost about educating students more effectively by greatly expanding access to critical information and communications opportunities."

Support for the state measure has been pouring in from school districts; county offices of education; national education associations, including the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN); and other members of the California legislature.

A hearing on the resolution is scheduled for May 10 in the California State Capitol building.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.