How Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and others will be able to charge your education is an important question, especially in light of the new wave of “digital colonialism.”
It’s one that is being answered, in part, by a new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) has introduced the Digital Coloring and Textile Act of 2017 (H.R. 613), which would require internet service providers to ensure that content created by third parties such as Google and Apple is free from “disparagement or discrimination.”
According to the bill, if providers are unable to do so, then students and others can file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In essence, the bill would require ISPs to verify that content hosted on their networks is free of “disruptive or deceptive” practices, such as false claims of copyright infringement.
“These are critical protections for students, educators and consumers,” Hudson said in a statement.
“The digital color and textiles industry has long sought the FTC to protect its members from the digital colonialism that plagues our schools, but it appears the FCC is now doing just that.”
The bill has not been introduced yet in the Senate.
The bill comes amid a wave of lawsuits against the internet companies over their efforts to charge students for online learning.
According to a New York Times report last month, a $1 billion class-action lawsuit was filed in New York state over the practice.
“It is an outrage that Google, Yahoo, Facebook or other large corporations are charging student tuition fees for free or at extremely low prices,” Hudson told ThinkProgress.
“If this bill becomes law, these corporations will pay for the college education of millions of students across the country, and if they don’t, I will introduce legislation that would require them to do just that.
I am asking the FCC to adopt a rule that allows these companies to provide a reasonable fee for their students’ online learning without violating their constitutional rights.”
Hudson’s bill also requires ISPs to ensure the free and fair distribution of educational materials, such that students who use the internet to access education content do not receive preferential treatment.
“We are also taking action to hold companies accountable for their deceptive practices, and we are proposing new penalties for companies who don’t,” Hudson added.
“This is an issue of free and open access for all students.
I urge all of my colleagues in Congress to take a stand against this trend of digital colonialism.”
The Digital Colouring and Textiles Act of 2015 (HJR 12) was also introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) but never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.
In the same way, the DigitalColoring andTextiles Act has been opposed by the American Printing & Publishing Guild, the National Association of School Administrators, the American Council of Teachers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and other organizations.
“In this day and age, digital colonialism is a threat to our democracy,” Hudson’s statement reads.
“Digital colonialism has led to the theft of intellectual property, the theft and commodification of intellectual works, and the loss of control over the content of our educational experiences.
The digital colonialism has also led to a shift in the nature of our education, as students are no longer given a fair chance to compete in a free and equitable marketplace for educational materials.
We must stand up for our students, our teachers, and our community in this fight for digital equity.”