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Dear Secretary Duncan: Net Neutrality is an Education Issue

If comedian John Oliver can get the importance of net neutrality, then our U.S. Department of Education should too. Yesterday, New America's Learning Technologies Project sent a letter to Secretary Arne Duncan urging him to recognize the risks posed to students' educational opportunities under the new proposal from the Federal Communication Commission. The proposal would essentially authorize "fast lanes" for online transmission of information, a move away from the approach known as net neutrality.

The letter accompanied a series of comments submitted to the FCC yesterday on behalf of four education start-up companies: Codecademy, CodeCombat, GeneralAssembly, and OpenCurriculum. (More about those companies and their comments is available at Marvin Amoori & Friends on Technology Policy; Ammori is a Future Tense Fellow at New America.)

The Learning Technologies Project is a new initiative within the Education Policy Program at New America. Central to our mission is a focus on equity and opportunity for all students, especially those from underserved areas and low-income families. As we write:

The FCC's new proposal would authorize technical discrimination and pay-for-priority deals (known in the press as "fast lanes") and also permit discrimination through interconnection and on mobile platforms. This proposal could undermine many of the administration's goals to increase access to education and promote anytime, anywhere learning.

Students need the ability to connect to information quickly and to share data and projects with each other without having to wonder if the information will be "waiting in line" for viewing or sharing because of the platform through which it was sent. This could be particularly important for students in low-income families or for non-traditional college students, as online services targeting them might not be able to afford access to the proposed "fast lanes."

The full text of the letter is here.