What would the university campus look like with a compromised internet? The internet is a fundamental tool of today’s pedagogy, so intrinsic it’s impossible to imagine a campus without a robust pipe. But a tiered internet and wonky WiFi access that varies from school to school and city to city is exactly what we could face if the FCC repeals net neutrality protections.
Why should we be concerned about net neutrality? Why should we protest? Students and faculty increasingly rely on 24/7 access to their learning management systems (LMS) and online course materials. Classes use the internet—via VLANs or other sensible configurations—to collaborate wirelessly on content sharing systems like the Mersive Solstice and Barco ClickShare. Projectors are now networked. Lobby displays are IP-enabled. Mirroring the consumer electronics space, just about every piece of pro AV gear is networkable, with either streaming capabilities, screen mirroring, or a web management feature. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index 2016, global IP video traffic will increase at an annual rate of 26 percent through 2020. As an industry we’ve been observing and encouraging end users to embrace AV over IP and standard codecs like MPEG or MJPEG 2000 for greater efficiency, and switch content over the network, sending AV just we sail our cat pictures, data, documents, and emails over the network. As more data, UC, and AV live together in a common IP ecosystem, for organizations that can’t afford pay hikes for fast lanes, must we reconsider approaches to video processing, network deployment, and bandwidth provisioning? As pro AV continues its great march into the ether, we cannot ignore the potential impact.
What about students who don’t live on the college campus and depend on municipal or free WiFi at libraries? More and more nontraditional students are enrolling in flipped or flex learning models, and they could start seeing the effects of strained and or choked pages, graphics that are slow to load, and videos that hiccup. As an instructor and continual learner, I am concerned. In a compelling Wired article posted yeserday, Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, stated, "the people that is likely to hurt most are actually rural populations that don’t have face-to-face access to things like nursing programs.”
Make no mistake: the repeal of net neutrality will affect just about every aspect of contemporary life and it could be particularly injurious to higher education. The great promise of democratized 21st Century tech-supported learning hangs in the balance.
Margot Douaihy is the editorial director of AV Technology an advisor at Franklin Pierce University.