Kimberly Johnson, a Washington social studies teacher, views the net neutrality debate through the prism of tiered services. If—and for now its a big if—carriers could put search engines such as Google and Yahoo on a more expensive service tier, its unlikely Johnsons school would foot the bill.
Johnsons school is Roosevelt High School in northwest Washington, an older school in a system thats chronically underfunded.
If her students couldnt access the likes of Google or Yahoo, it would mean that they would face an informational divide. Why? The Internet serves as the schools library. “We have to use the Internet a great deal because we dont have a functioning school library at my school,” Johnson said.
Should access become too much of a financial stretch for the district, her students couldnt research projects, write papers, complete geography assignments or find information on countries around the globe.
Meanwhile, any limits on the places the students could go for their research would pose problems. “Our students are familiar with Google, Yahoo and other search engines,” Johnson said. “I think it would be a lot more difficult for students to navigate the Web without the familiar engines.”
Johnson said she wouldnt pay that much attention to the net neutrality debate if her students could afford access on their own—but they cant.
“The school serves as their primary means to access the Internet,” Johnson said. “They come after school or even before school to use the Internet.”
She added that its not just the students who use the Internet at her school: In many cases, students families also depend on the school for their Internet access.
For Johnson, net neutrality has become intensely personal, and not just because shes uncertain whether she could afford her home account if prices increased.
She said she wonders if the companies involved have forgotten about her and her students, despite the fact that shes located only a few miles away from the U.S. Capitol.
“We dont want it to be more expensive. We dont want to make it more difficult for schools. Weve grown to rely on the Internet,” Johnson said.
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