To paraphrase the late Will Rogers, Oklahoma trick roper, philosopher, and comedian: There’s good news from Washington today; Congress is in recess.
August is when our lawmakers traditionally take golf junkets to Scotland paid for by big lobbyists, fly to fund- raisers on corporate jets, and–if time permits–visit with their constituents.
In the months leading up to the August recess, however, Congress presented us with a host of critical issues affecting education technology–two of which I’ll underscore here. For starters–much to my astonishment–federal lawmakers gave every indication that they actually do intend to gut funding for education technology. Hundreds of millions Congress can spend for bridges to nowhere, polka museums, and to study the nutritional value of the fragrance of limburger cheese, but when it comes to technology for our schools–oh, then it’s time to be fiscal conservatives.
Our Front Page story “U.S. marching to the rear on ed tech” should help you put that congressional gambit in perspective. Could it be that the majority thinks allowing Mexico to surge ahead of the U.S. in education technology will be a cheaper, more effective strategy on illegal immigration than building a wall along our southern border? The sad thing is, eventually it might work.
As boneheaded as eliminating the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (E2T2) program certainly would be, the damage from that congressional blunder probably would be less pervasive in the long run than the lawmakers’ apparent plan to bury the Net Neutrality amendment (see “Senate panel rejects ‘net neutrality’ rules,” Page 26). Net Neutrality rules would stop big telecommunications companies and others from creating a two-tier internet–an internet autobahn for the wealthy and for large corporations and an internet cow path for everyone else.
A glimpse of that two-tier internet arrived just the other day in the in-box of my old AOL account. The preview came with a message sent to me from the New York Times. AOL had marked the message with a little green box declaring this message was “AOL Priority Mail.”
As we’ve previously reported (see “No more tiers,” April), AOL plans to start charging for prompt delivery of eMail. That little green box on a message from the New York Times apparently was a precursor. Charging for what ought to be basic will become the norm if we don’t put a stop to it. (It’s like the airline that wants to charge extra for aisle and window seats.)
This “AOL Priority” icon appeared on only one message from the Times, so maybe somebody at AOL found out that Net Neutrality is not yet entirely dead in Congress, that it was a tad too early to show consumers what they were in for.
But just you wait. If Net Neutrality does go down in defeat, as now appears likely, brace yourself for lots more such “priority” treatment of internet traffic–swift, efficient delivery for the rich and powerful, and pokey, circuitous delivery for you and me.
Of course, there are always two sides to a story. So, to be fair and balanced, I’d like to present the argument from a leading opponent of Net Neutrality–Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. Here are the key points he raised about why we don’t need Net Neutrality: “This internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s & it’s a series of tubes.
“And if you don’t understand that those tubes can be filled, and if they’re filled when you put your message in it, it’s going to be delayed by anyone who puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”
Before you accuse me of taking that out of context, go listen to the audio record yourself: http://www.eschoolnews .com/stevens.
Sen. Stevens notwithstanding, the last word in Congress isn’t likely to be uttered on either E2T2 or Net Neutrality until this fall. So now’s the time to let federal lawmakers know how you feel about these things.
Remain silent now–when it counts–and we’ll give the truth to another of Will Rogers’ legislative observations, this one from a radio show he did in 1935: “. . . The thing about my jokes is, they don’t hurt anybody. . . .But with Congress, every time they make a joke, it’s a law! And every time they make a law, it’s a joke!”