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Net neutrality
Net neutrality
 embraces many of the principles of open education, involving equitable opportunities for all regardless of monetary input. An idealist sees information consumption and distribution as a necessity to the betterment of all individuals, but for others this presents itself to be a business opportunity for personal gain. Some people may be dependent on this for their source of income, so the line between making a living and excess is grey, but it’s important we look at the effects of putting a price tag on the internet and on information in general. It is inherent to our capitalist way of life, so how can we escape the system wrought with greed? Is there a balance between money and open information and access? What are the impacts of the desire for monetary gain? The less than noble players seem to use a particular formula to keep their pockets full and the overarching themes of this apparent greed perpetuate the digital divide utilizing safety in ambiguity.

Safety in ambiguity
Elections are incoming for the province of Saskatchewan as well as in our neighbour-nation to the south… and I think politics is a venue where we can observe safety in ambiguity first-hand through empty promises. “We are committed to developing a plan…”, “we intend to create…”, “we hope to achieve…” the inherent doubt within all these statements is what allows a group, be it political or commercial, to state wondrous intentions but have the safety net of “it was only a hope” or “well, we did do this <minor thing>”. People are frustrated with these statements on every level and may be why Trump has as much support as he does at this point. His plans sound definite with no grey areas, which is a nuance in modern politics and negotiation. Note: this may be the only time you hear a mildly positive comment about said individual. He makes a measurable commitment, which an inquiring mind can at least take some comfort in knowing. And that appears to garner support. My theory would be that we are all aware of the deliberate vagueness of these “business statements”, but simply become frustrated and do nothing to change it. Being committed or open to something is immeasurable. Which is what some in power need to operate freely, so the ambiguous nature of the statement is their defence and their safety. How do we have students sift through this? How do we teach a desire to create change rather than passivity? As educators, “I don’t know” is not an applicable answer. Despite that, when stated correctly, “I don’t know” strategtically protects people in power.

open info or money
“Money or open info + access?” taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5

The digital divide
In human history, we have seen a separation between classes. But is it better or worse today than it was in the past? Students of various economic backgrounds may have access to the same technology at the school, but when they are outside of school what opportunities are they presented that allows them to further excel or fall further behind? When there is the wealth gap, how do you combat this? Do we accept that it is how our society is, and the web is simply the new venue of continuing the wealth distribution gap? John Batelle addressed this notion in the quote: “The web as we know it is rather like our polar ice caps: under severe, long-term attack by forces of our own creation.”  And these creations may take the form of noble tasks but still have inherent problems, like when Facebook created Internet.org, but this simply gave a taste of the internet and fuelled the desire for more (which would cost money). Consider in a school rather than your personal service provider… is your data/Wi-FI service is far better? As a low-income student, does a tech-based class give you a taste of internet access, which leads to the desire to spend money to get it, even for those who may not be able to afford it? Or is this there only opportunity to try and keep up? Wi-Fi access may be a human right, but owning certain technology which speeds the accumulation of information isn’t… and what amount of Wi-Fi speed is a basic human right? School may help educate it, but does the divide remain beyond education’s power? More money at home –> better tech at home –> more tech-saavy child at home –> better performance at school –> more money-earned. Is school the medium to combat this? How do we bridge that gap in an effort to establish equitable learning? Jessy Irwin reminds us that “a faster web for some, isn’t an equal web for all”.

Video: What is the digital divide?

Equity in society and education
I’m not saying capitalism’s good and I’m not saying it’s bad as it is a fundamental part of our society but, in a broad sense, the monetary amounts we make and spend and the associated discrepancies of salaries between careers may ultimately say, “If I make more than you, I deserve more than you, therefore I am more important to society”. While this comment fails to acknowledge the risk affiliated with careers, including ones that involve multi-million dollar risks that create jobs that may even help fund education or the careers that eventually try to gain monopolies and control the information (what ads we see) and information content and sharing. Where is the line between what we need and what we want, and what is fair with others in mind? Is it entrepreneurial or inhumane to covet and alter internet speeds to the highest bidder? They say entrepreneurs/CEOs have high divorce rates, is this because their priorities are for the accumulation of wealth? And is the desire to let an idea grow into what you dreamed it could be such a bad thing? As parents and educators, how do we want information to be available to our youth? Do we want our hard work rewarded to give our children the opportunities they deserve by buying them the best equipment, or keep things equitable for all students? These are questions we need to consider when considering the kind of world we actually practice, and not the open internet we publicly want. Mathew Ingram would ask what kind of internet do we want? But perhaps the better questions is what kind of internet do they (students) want? The innocence of a child may state it best – they would want an open internet and would be frustrated if it were slow because we didn’t pay for what was better, it isn’t a question of whether they care, they already care, but what is the means we will take to make their cares come true?

Comments and thoughts? Let me know!

Logan Petlak