How m-Learning Can Effect Net Neutrality
I haven’t posted in awhile, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been paying attention to the mobile world. And one thing I’ve noticed is the nervousness building in the mobile community regarding net neutrality and what some companies are accused of wanting to do to block net neutrality. This post from engadget attempts to explain how Google and Verizon are trying to deal with net neutrality. Overall, one major fear is that companies will try to limit access to certain content by providing a tiered system of access to the networks, charging higher prices for faster Internet access, network speed, and access to content. Companies could block certain content and allow favorable exposure to consumers if a company pays to have that exposure. Some liken this to the television world, where companies pay to advertise and gain exposure to a consumer base and content is censored.
You may be asking yourself, how does this effect mobile learning? Well, I can see it playing out in several different ways. First of all, learning content is something that we all want and learning content can really help to level the playing field for those who may normally lack access to good educational content in their local communities. And educational content can come in many forms, i.e. tutorials, manuals, courseware, web-based college courses, standard operating procedures, videos, forum/blog posts, etc.
Some net neutrality advocates (and I think we all are advocates of freedom and access, at least to some extent) fear that mobile access to content of all kinds will be the first to go if the battle for net neutrality takes a turn for the worse. The worry is that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will apply the lessons learned from the wired Internet (i.e. they just provide all access at a standard price and speed, but they could make more money if they had multiple tiered systems like they do for cable television) to the mobile and wireless Internet and the services that go along with that. They worry that ISPs will find a way to selectively provide content to consumers based on the price those consumers pay and the plans they choose. This means that my wireless Internet provider, Verizon Wireless, could charge me the highest monthly price to receive the fastest access with the most content. If I paid less, I would get less access to content or slower connection speeds or both.
It seems to me that we as consumers could combat the possible move to restrict access and speed by insisting that the mobile/wireless Internet allow for learning content to be accessed by all consumers at all price levels. As I stated earlier, learning content comes in all sorts of forms and sorting those forms out from other forms of content would be extremely difficult service providers. Learning content can come from academic institutions, corporate knowledge bases, consumers etc. So insisting that all learning content be accessible to all could allow for a fairly large classification of content to be free and unrestricted for all consumers.
This may seem like a stretch or may even seem irrelevant to some, but I would love to live in a world where all those who have a connection to the mobile Web also have unrestricted access to learning content of all kinds. To limit the access of any learning content to only those who pay high prices for unrestricted access would be a real step backwards and a disservice to all.
This is probably one of the more opinion oriented posts I’ve written, but it seems important to a lot of people that we have access to learning content on the mobile web. I think that if we can convince the powers that be that we should allow learning content to be a special unrestricted category for all subscribers to the mobile/wireless Internet, we will continue a tradition where the Web provides a real service to all who consume information from it. Otherwise, it may just become another commodity where the haves are separated from the have-nots, and it could also prevent learning content providers from serving their audience.