WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined 21 of her Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to consider how a free, fair, and open internet provides our nation’s students in P-12 and higher education with opportunities to learn and succeed. Senators requested Chairman Pai delay the proposed vote to dismantle existing net neutrality rules until he specifically addresses the impacts on students and schools—specifically those in rural or low-income communities, as well as how the decision it will impact education equities and the digital divide.
“By overturning the Commission’s current rules that preserve net neutrality and prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, throttling, or otherwise privileging lawful content, we fear that the Draft Order could harm our nation’s students and schools—especially those in rural and low-income communities,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to delay this monumental decision to dismantle net neutrality until you have fully examined the Draft Order’s impact on our nation’s students and their ability to learn.”
Allowing internet service providers to limit access and increase costs could increase the digital divide for students in rural and low-income areas, where their only access to the internet may be at a resource-constrained school or a public library. This decision could also hinder teachers’ and students’ ability to access educational materials from around the globe and make it more difficult for students with disabilities and English learners to receive a high-quality education. On December 14, the Commission is expected to vote along party lines in favor of Chairman Pai’s proposal, which will roll back the FCC’s current prohibitions against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, and will give more power to internet service providers (ISPs).
The letter was led by HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and was also signed by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Full text of the letter is available here.