We have become addicted to the internet as a society/culture and most of that has been because of the openness of the internet. Right now with a little know how and an idea you can get anything on the internet. But there is currently a movement in some parts of government and business that could start putting a hamper on that openness.
The issue lies in whether the internet differentiates between the data that we are receiving and on which devices we are receiving these things. If you look at what is happening with Google TV enabled television sets and set top boxes they can not see any content from certain networks even though it is an internet enabled device. The networks don’t want you to because they want you to stick with subscribing to your set of channels and be able to broadcast as many commercials as they can. Another example of this is that Bit Torrent (a file sharing protocol/company) had to take Comcast to court because their internet service was throttling how fast someone could share something. While the second example seems like it has only negative and illegal connotations, I have had friends who are teaching english abroad share their wedding pictures over bit torrent so people could look at them at home. If companies get their way the option to share things like that will be either a lot slower or those opportunities will not happen at all.
Not only does this apply to the ways we get content but in some cases can be applied to the content itself. The Great Firewall of China limits access to the internet for any device. When you are in China you have no access to various social media sites or anywhere that you might be able to spread information that the government would deam unsatisfactory. Up until recently we as Canadians have not had to worry about the government wanting to snoop in on our online activites. But unfortunately the Conservative government has tabled various bills (C-50, C-51, C-52) which start requiring that ISP (Internet Service Providers) provide their customer information to a governing body with no court oversight, which doesn’t seem like it is too bad until you couple that with ISPs having to rework their networks so that the RCMP can do surveillance on your data in real time. These bills also start giving police options for data warrants that look at all of the data transmission in real time.
Now where the really comes in for education is that if the internet is no longer neutral the corporations and government can start dictating what data is easily accessible and what data is not. Your ISP could make a deal with certain companies or interest groups to make traffic to certain site run faster. An example would be your connection to amazon.ca being blazingly fast where your connection to chapters.ca is not. Or on the interest group side of things if you’re interested in abortion or the legalization of marijuana then you might not have any access or easy access to any of the information you’re interested in. Anyone limiting what the internet can and can’t be is a slippery slope.
Unfortunately the justifications the people in charge make for these changes are the most reactionary. As soon as the issue comes up instead of talking about corporate deals and censorship the way politicians get people on board is talking about “terrorism” and “child pornographers”. While I agree both are problems, it feels like an over reaction to give the government such massive controls over everything that we do.