Alex Delaney-Gesing
Assistant Editor

The Internet has been a constantly evolving entity since its inception. Increasingly, colleges across the country are becoming reliant on the Internet to host online classes and supplement on-campus classes.

The impact this reliance could potentially have on students at post-secondary institutions like Lorain County Community College has been debated among learners.

“To take that option [of free access] away because of a required fee would not only hurt the students but LCCC as well,” said LCCC student Douglas Sharpey.

On the other side of the spectrum, student Lindsay Harris said she would not mind paying extra for academic web sites.
“Yes I would  [pay for online classes], it is so much easier for me to fit in classes. I do not have the time to sit through regular classes.”

The offerings give busy students the ability to balance their coursework, home life and jobs with ease. Over the past few years Internet service providers (ISPs) have made an attempt to charge content providers tiered pricing for the data they share across the Internet.

In 2008 the Federal Communications Commission began steps towards Open Internet rules. At the time, Internet provider Comcast was manipulating Internet usage for peer-to-peer file sharing. The FCC claimed this was unlawful and thus began the great net neutrality debate.

Net neutrality is the idea that an ISP should treat all the data that travels through its network equally, regardless of the source, destination, or content of that data, according to the Association of College & Research Libraries. These types of rules are designed to prohibit the owner of a network from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data except for legitimate network management purposes, states.

Since the most recent ruling of the federal appeals court against the Federal Communications Commission’s desire for Internet equality in the beginning of this year, the fight for Net neutrality has not stopped. In January, the federal appeals court ruled it legal for ISPs to create layered pricing for specific types of online traffic.

The impact of the debate’s eventual outcome will have a significant effect on schools, colleges and universities across the nation. By ruling against net neutrality, the rate of Internet content access for those who are not able to pay will decrease.

“The approach that is developing is to have multiple classes of Internet service,with a tiered pricing strategy,” said Douglas Huber, Lorain County Community College professor of the engineering, business and information technologies division. “For example, users of streaming video services, such as Netflix may have to purchase a premium service in order to get the capacity they need.”

Having to pay mandatory fees at set rates by various companies would be a feat nearly impossible for the average college student today. Already weighed down by student loans or other debt, students don’t have the money to spend on the Web. By not paying the allotted fee, Internet access would become less high-speed in service as well as communication.

With this potential scenario at risk of taking place, the impact would be detrimental to the average person and student alike.

“The reason [the FCC is] considering this approach is that carriers are seeking revenue to build the needed capacity to keep up with the growth in Internet usage,” said Huber. “
The margins for providing Internet service are very small, yet large investments in capacity are needed.

At post-secondary schools (two-year and universities) in the country, approximately 38 percent of students are adult learners, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). With a required fee for certain academic websites, colleges with low-incomes could face the risk of having to cut courses. All students could be affected in terms of curriculum research restrictions. By not receiving access to web pages centered towards promoting education achievement, students will be unable to receive a proper education. Without a proper education, the future of our country will not be as vibrant as it could be.

“The impact for all of us, will likely be higher Internet costs, and a need to prioritize what levels of service we really need based upon our favorite applications,” said Huber.

“There are certain things you have to pay for at school, but having to pay [for online classes] isn’t right,” said Bridget Lamnek, a Science /  Biology major at Bowling Green State University through the University Partnership.

Limiting the number of viewers on websites by putting up mandatory fees could equate to a loss of education among this and future generations.

“You’re already paying too much money [for courses],”said Alexandra Navallo, an LCCC computer science development major.

The goal of the FCC includes moving towards a program that would provide them with the managing control over how the Internet traffic streams between content providers and the business that administer Internet service to consumers, The New York Times stated.

While the FCC’s plan consists of banning most forms of paid prioritization, it also includes allowing content providers to cut deals for special access to consumers.

In addition to national advocacy on the subject, local support for Net neutrality includes Ohio U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur.

“I recognize the importance of policy that keeps the Internet an open platform and protect its users from unfair practices, and that is why I fully support the adoption of strong Net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission,” Kaptur said. “I joined with my broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service. This would ensure that all Internet providers are seen as common carriers under the law, and ensure a well-defined, non-discriminatory broadband infrastructure.”

Karl Schneider contributed to this article.