Commentary: Why, as an educator, I care about Net Neutrality

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Ivette Bayo Urban

To my community of elders, children, educators, information professionals, business and community leaders:

I care about Net Neutrality because as an educator, I am a connector of information — the flows, accesses, capacities and environments that can create a human connection of experiences we can share.

Let me tell you why I do what I do. I am a boundary spanner of sorts. I cross official and unofficial boundaries building community, sharing information and attempting to do so in respectful, responsible and reciprocal ways. I educate and lead from where I am and I help to create a shared vision of what we can aspire to be.

Over the last few days, I had the pleasure, honor and privilege of being one of the conveners of the Critical Pedagogy Summit. I value people and processes which allow me to be surrounded by very smart people. Luckily as an educator, I have learned that there is only so much my formal education and perspectives can teach me about the world. And it is in these relationships and in the coming together and crossing borders where I learn the most and the best quality lessons. For example, a soon to be released card game, “Potlatch: A Game about Economics” crosses many pedagogical and knowledge system borders by teaching young folks about envisioning different possibilities.

I selfishly wanted to learn more about the concerns over Net Neutrality and I wanted to create a space to come together – and that we did. I was surrounded by impressive, smart and interested folks that have been in my life and learning path to talk about Net Neutrality. The room was filled with Scholars, Information Professionals, Educators and Leaders who came together for the purpose of envisioning and writing.  We shared, we healed, we learned, we taught and we centered around net neutrality – literally. We spent four hours sharing stories and connecting. Those who had commitments left, but Jen Ten Bears and I stayed behind while new friends joined us to share the conversations of the morning with folks who crossed our path. That evening, Dr. Jeanette Bushnell, an Edmonds resident and semi-retired researcher, game developer and educator, compiled a written statement to share with folks broadly and also specifically with participants joining the second half of the Critical Pedagogy Summit — for a day of connecting, networking and sharing and holding space for people.

While there are plenty of reasons that keep us united, I would say there are also plenty of reasons that divide us. One of the things that came up in the room on Friday was “Why Net Neutrality?” when there are other concerns — such as tax reform and health care reform. There was a sense of frustration. Dr. Bushnell reminded us that there are rooms with invested folks who are working on the other issues such as the American Medical Association, and our job is to trust the experts to decipher, communicate and provide actionable items we can tackle. Our job was to be the experts in the room centering around Net Neutrality, to take the language provided by our field, Library and Information Professionals, such as the statement issued by the American Library Association, and do the same.

Below I will share the statement Dr. Jeanette Bushnell developed, but first I want to tell you a story about why I care. I have taught in Title 1 schools, to students whose parents cannot afford basic necessities, and therefore are on free or reduced lunch. Throughout my life, as a young single mother and as an older single mother, I have been on WIC, food stamps and other assistance myself, I know what it feels like to not be able to afford food that will nourish my body, or services that others have and that I would like to be able to provide. When I was applying to the PhD Program at the University of Washington, I had to make a decision between cable and WiFi – and for eight months I was not able to afford either. I completed my PhD applications and job applications while any one of the conditions were true – sitting in my balcony hoping there was a free WiFi signal available. Or driving to the nearby McDonald’s or Starbucks after the library had closed to borrow their WiFi because I needed to get information to others or receive information. I was not able to afford certain things because I needed to be able to afford others and resources were scarce.

I study people and their personal relationships with technology with emphasis on how the social and technological systems operate in our daily lives. The orientation of my scholarship is towards information equity and educational equity.  I care about Net Neutrality because our future generations should not have to choose between affording food or quality, community sourced, information like the Beacon and My Edmonds News. I want the elderly, those experiencing homelessness, our educators, those who need support and have information to share to be able to share information freely. This is why libraries are so important to our democracy. They have values and ethics that are made visible and they aspire towards serving all, removing barriers and questioning and challenging processes, as all good leaders do. The American Library Association’s Code of Ethics supports our democracy, that states that “all individuals have the right to hold any belief on any subject and to convey their ideas in any form they deem appropriate, and second, that society makes an equal commitment to the right of unrestricted access to information and ideas regardless of the communication medium used, the content of work, and the viewpoints of both the author and the receiver of information.”

— By Ivette Bayo Urban, MEd, MSIS

Ivette Bayo Urban is a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington’s iSchool, part of FemTechNet, does a whole bunch of cool stuff like recently being one of the conveners for the Critical Pedagogy Summit and facilitating a session at the inaugural LSC Step Up event. In her research she’s had the opportunity to interview many people for whom digital access and literacy is not a simple matter.

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Centering Around Net Neutrality:

A statement from the Critical Pedagogy Summit, Dec 1, 2017

Intended Audience:  Politicians, Educators, Information Professionals, and Leaders

Who:  Information Professionals, Educators, and Leaders came together for the purpose of envisioning and writing.  We shared, we healed, we learned and we taught.

Statement:  Removing net neutrality benefits the individuals and entities that value maximizing financial profit.  History has shown such preferential benefits will negatively impact other individuals and groups – those who are often referred to as ‘marginalized’ or ‘minority’.  Maintaining net neutrality is a social equity issue.  It is an economic class issue.  It is an education and knowledge access issue.  All of these issues are known to be tied to systemic oppressions – they ARE the definition of systemic oppression.

ACTION: Don’t ignore the Net Neutrality issue.

Here’s how to fight it in less than 12 seconds:

Do you oppose the repeal of net neutrality? Call the FCC 1-202-418-1000. Leave a message saying “you oppose the repeal of Net Neutrality”.

Here’s how to fight it in less than 60 seconds:

  1. Go to com (the shortcut John Oliver made, which takes you to the hard-to-find FCC comment page).
  2. Click on “express”.
  3. Fill out the basic info just like signing a petition and comment that you want to keep net neutrality as it is.
  4. Click to submit, done.

Note: you need to hit the enter/return button once you enter your name on the keyboard or touchscreen. Otherwise, you will get a submission error. (Copied from David Gilberholm, shared by Dr. Jeanette Bushnell).

Pass it along! You’re literally filing a comment in the FCC proceeding – that is direct impact!

Interested in more? Here are a few suggested readings:

Find out what the Library and Information Professionals say about Net Neutrality:

Network neutrality is the concept of online non-discrimination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. For people who dont know what net neutrality is:
    Net Neutrality comprises a set of policies that empower Internet users to use the Internet freely like
    broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, application, services, or any classes thereof or they must not favor some internet traffic over other internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind.
    For more info: https://www.purevpn.com/blog/what-is-net-neutrality-scty/

  2. How does Net Neutrality compare with the pricing plans already in place? Several grades of speed are already offered. We can buy dial up, X mbs, 2x mbs and so on. Each has a different price. How does the grade of service I buy relate to Net Neutrality?

  3. “Removing net neutrality benefits the individuals and entities that value maximizing financial profit” <-how is that bad, or the problem even if it were bad? We all need clothes and shoes. Entities that value profit give us those things cheaper and better every day. What's the alternative?

    Net Neutrality means internet service providers cannot throttle content based on fees collected for delivering content. All content has to be treated the same. We already have TV-broadcast neutrality, which is why out of 12 channels you can receive on your antenna, 10 of them are prosperity ministries trying to sell you anointed water. Many people are forced to pay for ESPN (which can be $14-30 per month) even though they might not watch sports. This is TV-neutrality.

    We've never had net neutrality. Net Neutrality is band-aid we have to consider in a world where most of us only have one ISP to choose from and ISP's are retooling to deliver more streaming content. ISP's want to offer "cable-cutters" (industry slang for those trying to escape TV-neutrality by watching content on the internet) faster a-la-carte streaming services. The issue with them doing that is that they have a captive market, so if they increase bandwidth for Netflix, then they may reduce bandwidth for content that a minority of people value (I think everyone agrees that's not good). More Netflix = More Money, and there aren't smaller ISP's available in most areas that would specialize in the newly created niche markets. With only one ISP, it's a problem. However, what people don't realize is that ISP's aren't content. Google, Facebook, and Netflix are content. They are "entities that value maximizing financial profit" every bit as much as Comcast is. Even in the wake of pseudo-neutrality, they use algorithms to throttle content within their own services, effectively doing the same thing Net Neutrality was trying to prevent. Corporations who value profit are getting greater control over content in the wake of (and arguably because of) Obama's pseudo-net-neutrality.

    Even though grants installed the cables, and they are laid over public roads and under public streets, ISP's are given sole source municipal contracts. The market is divvied into sole-provider territories, much like how gangs divide up drug turf. The government could simply break up those territories, and put the burden of new infrastructure onto ISP's instead of tax-payers. Why can't we have 4 ISP's, one that is neutral, one that has fast Netflix, one that is cheap but slow? I'm from rural Maine, where there isn't a market big enough for a diverse data delivery infrastructure, yet still there are 10 different cell phone companies that rent space on larger cellular providers offering different throttled bandwidth options at different prices. Deregulate. Universal Access (neutrality) was the argument for the Digital TV converter program vouchers. No one argues that TV neutrality was a success, and were all old enough to remember this failure: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupon-eligible_converter_box The internet is too important to have it centrally planned.

  4. Dear Matthew,

    Thank you for your post. Let me be clear, maximizing financial profits is not a problem, per se. However, what libraries offer are core values and professional ethics which define, inform, and guide all professional practice.

    CORE VALUES
    Access
    Confidentiality/Privacy
    Democracy
    Diversity
    Education and Lifelong Learning
    Intellectual Freedom
    Preservation
    The Public Good
    Professionalism
    Service
    Social Responsibility

    As a parent, I am going to provide my children with the best source of information I have at my disposal. And I do that freely because I have a responsibility to them and I am invested in their success and vice versa. The problem with repeal of net neutrality is that if I went to the internet to access information, the question might be, how much can you afford. It is the difference between relational accountability and a transaction.

    If telecom company’s can prioritize certain content vs other internet content, at high speeds – where does that leave the public good? I do not believe in neutral anything, and definitely not neutral internet.

    For those interested in finding out more, check out my colleague Dr. Safiya Noble explaining why we should care about commercial spaces dominating our information landscape.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRVZozEEWlE

    Telecom companies have different priorities, and despite the fact that the system is already flawed, removal of net neutrality will negatively impact small local businesses, which is the heart of what I love about our community.

    Additionally, I think of the additional barriers to being an entrepreneur or starting a new business. Imagine if now in addition to everything else, marketing, planning, financing -if now you need to pay a higher premium in order to reach your potential customers quickly.

    • Ivette Bayo Urban – Succinct and eloquent. Thank you! I would also add that the internet is the closest thing we have to a public square; when access to that public square becomes something only some people can afford, or when internet content is directly or indirectly controlled by any entity, democracy goes out the window and we have another aspect of the rot that began with Citizens United.

    • Libraries? What does being an educator, or a parent, or libraries have to do with Net Neutrality? I love talking about Net Neutrality, but your article was a lot of non sequitur ideas pushed together into a salad of sorts. Jack Harkness, in the comments, even had to explain what Net Neutrality was because the your article didn’t.

      Facebook and google can prioritize content just like an ISP can. The entire internet infrastructure is based on prioritization of bandwidth determined by need [and whomever pays for that need]. On top of that, “www” isn’t the only network as ISP’s provide throttled services to bigger corporations via ancillary channels to speed up back-end bandwidth, and [again] they do that for profit. Millions of people can log onto Amazon at the same time and get white elephant gifts the next day because the internet is not, and has never been, a neutral public space that gives the same bandwidth to stormfront.org as it does to msnbc.com. If ebay and amazon where given the same on-demand bandwidth today, Amazon would instantly crash. The internet is constantly being throttled based on who is willing to pay for what. If myspace.com is used less, then facebook content is prioritized (again for a profit). Net Neutrality, even in theory, is idealistic. If all web content were guaranteed the same bandwidth, all websites would look like 90’s geocites because it would have been unable to evolve to changing demand. For those of us too young to remember: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahoo!_GeoCities.

      You also keep saying that we’re removing Net Neutrality. ***We never had Net Neutrality***. All Presedent Obama and Wheeler were able to do was put a chilling effect on infrastructure development. Being that our informed opinions are from John Oliver, here is an article addressing those misconceptions and the source. https://www.wired.com/2014/06/net_neutrality_missing/

      ” ”’Fast lane is how the internet is built today,”’” says Craig Labovitz, who, as the CEO of DeepField Networks, an outfit whose sole mission is to track how companies build internet infrastructure […] ”

      The video link you provided of your colleague is sophomoric. Her whole argument was disgusting even. What does internet porn have to do with Net Neutrality? You want to regulate google search algorithms? That’s what China does and it’s beyond what Net Neutrality was even conceived to do. Outside of a few areas, internet content (such as search algorithms) itself is not regulated, and Net Neutrality -at best- is just an attempt to verify that all content is treated the same once it’s on the internet. The government would be the worst editor-in-chief of internet content. I googled “black girls” and I got the following links:
      1) Black Girls Are Lit – Black Girls Dance Compilation – YouTube
      2) Black Girls Code http://www.blackgirlscode.com/
      3) #blackgirls • Instagram photos and videos
      4) Meet the Black Girls of Goth – Racked
      5) Black Girls Rock! Homepage – BET.com

      If she spends all day on certain sites, google will help her find what she needs. Please tell her to delete her cookies and stay off certain domains. If you want a neutral search, like one you can find in a library, use duckduckgo.com which uses no personal tracking in the search algorithms. Duckduckgo offers neutrality without any regulators.

      Then, you didn’t address the real concern I brought up at all (as though you didn’t even read my comment). Internet options should be available for $20 a month, but because of sole source municipal contracts which the FCC has allowed municipalities to broker, we are left with one, sometimes two, ISP’s to choose from, and they don’t compete. We pay too much, and have too few options. That’s a real public access concern; googling pornography isn’t.

  5. “Additionally, I think of the additional barriers to being an entrepreneur or starting a new business. Imagine if now in addition to everything else, marketing, planning, financing -if now you need to pay a higher premium in order to reach your potential customers quickly.”
    ^^^ I am a small business owner. Thanks to google, and the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) options I paid for (which were cheap), my business gets great visibility among larger competitors. I couldn’t imagine a system where my site was pushed to the bottom because un-targeted nonsense clogged up the algorithms. If your interpretation of Net Neutrality is ever implemented (which it’s not), SEO might be impossible.

  6. Now that I am hating myself for me not understanding what this conversation is actually about (which isn’t Net Neutrality), I think I should apologize and re-couch this.

    1) Should the internet be a public space? Yes, it should remain a space where almost anyone can put up a website about almost anything.
    2) Is hate speech permissible in public? Yes. The library, even, has Mein Kampf, which is full of hate speech.
    3) Should the government curate content, ban books or pushed to the back room? Maybe is a few small cases, such as those that affect national security or exploit children. It’s an equal access issue to have as much content as possible, but libraries also respond to demand by stocking multiple copies of books that are popular (i.e. that’s just like internet fast-lanes).
    4) If 10% of the population is interested in googling “white supremacy”, whether for advocacy or criticism, should the government force search results to not appear? Your Colleague, Safiya Noble, seems to be complaining that the government isn’t forcing search engines to obscure websites she finds offensive, and she seems to be having a tough time getting published with that thesis.

    Your arguments seem to be more about censorship of the internet.

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