Back in July I posted about whether or not high-speed internet is a right. Following my post, I was contacted by Justin Birch who is very passionate about the topic. Justin is a writer and editor who works to promote the quality and availability of undergraduate education in America. Enjoy his post. It was much more thorough than my post back in July!
High-Speed Internet Access is a Human Right
When most people think about the importance of a broadband internet connection, their minds immediately focus on all of the fun, recreational uses of that connection: browsing video clips, downloading and streaming music, social networking, and so on. However, while these uses are perhaps the most well-known and considered, a high-speed internet connection’s utility goes far, far deeper.
High-speed internet connections can boost a country’s (or a continent’s) gross domestic production. They can turn plain classrooms into hubs of cultural interactivity and learning. Online schooling can supplement conventional education or make courses available to students in remote areas. Fast connections can also turn money-losing public schools into institutions profitable at the state level and enable them to meet and surpass federal academic standards.
These things and many other factors have prompted the United Nations to conclude that a high-speed internet connection isn’t just a luxury to be enjoyed by the upper echelons of society. The international body recently passed a resolution that declares a high-speed internet connection to be a human right to which all people around the world are entitled. Furthermore, it defines the removal or banning of internet services in any particular country or locale to be counter to human rights and the pursuit of quality of life and personal improvement.
One of the main tenets of this new view of the Internet has to do with the integration of technology and education in bringing greater knowledge and cultural awareness to classrooms around the globe. While the United States has debated for years the best way to fix its public education system, other countries have grappled with similar issues: how can more children be educated with fewer resources and still have a fighting chance at being among the smartest people in the world?
High-Speed Internet Access as Indispensable Education Tool
Studies have been performed and the results are in: when children have access to high-speed internet services in their schools, they perform better on standardized testing and are shown to learn better and have a greater understanding of the topics they are studying. This is due largely thanks to the personal interactive nature of things like laptops, tablets, and “smart boards” in classrooms, all of which require a high-speed internet connection to be viable tools for learning and instruction.
The research into the benefits of technology in the classroom goes even further. It’s well known that many American schools are facing funding crises on an annual basis. States are looking to save money, and sadly education is often the first area to experience funding cuts. However, when high-speed internet connections and high-tech devices are introduced into the educational landscape, those same schools which are frequently losing funding actually turn into revenue-neutral schools at the state level. A large number of high-tech schools and school systems actually become revenue-positive, producing a modest profit for the state.
The Problem with Attaining Educational Broadband
The problem with relying so heavily on technology to transform the classroom (and technology is one of the few things that could truly upend the educational system and turn it once again into a success story) is that broadband costs a great deal of money. That high price is hard to pay when state legislatures are cutting funding to schools across the board.
In a recent survey, more than half (about 54.7%) of school administrators admitted their broadband services were insufficient and they foresaw funding issues preventing them from obtaining adequate access to serve their students. This problem arises from the fact that most legislators don’t view internet access in the same way as school administrators and teachers. Instead, they take the view that the Internet is just a fun place to waste some time.
Educators have not fully communicated just how important it is that internet service comes to their classrooms. Most have been murky at best on just how beneficial it is to have a classroom full of students, each with their own computer, exploring and touching pieces of knowledge and personalizing it so that it sticks with them long after the test has been passed.
United Nations to Save the Day?
The good news is the United Nations is now picking up the slack for school administrators around the country and around the world who haven’t been able to fully make their cases. With broadband internet services now declared a human right, and with its impacts on national GDP and educational funding and performance now an issue of international law, the classroom may indeed finally cross the digital divide and become a success story once again. Only time will tell, but with the help of the United Nations, it’s likely that many more state and local educational boards will recognize the importance of a furiously fast internet connection and a firm commitment to the latest technology in every classroom.