A high school student who wrote Gov. Paul LePage regarding her concerns about the loss of net neutrality received a handwritten response from the governor last week, which said: Pick up a book and read!

In the month leading up to the recent  Federal Communications Commission repeal net neutrality regulations vote, student Hope Osgood of Lincolnville, learned about net neutrality, and what could happen if it ended. While browsing social media she found an application online that would generate a letter she wrote expressing her concerns, and emailed it to Gov. LePage.

She said Dec. 27 that since she is from Maine, she felt a local representative would listen to her, more than a member of Congress would. She reasoned that "there's only so many people that could write to him [LePage], rather than Congress where people from all 50 states could write to them."

She wrote, "The internet is the easiest way to access anything. News, information, etc. Companies being able to put restrictions on internet usage isn't ideal! People will be left in the dark about some things. All my school work is internet based, but what happens if I can't reach what I need to? What about my lessons in school?"

Osgood further explained her concerns about the loss of net neutrality Dec. 27. While she acknowledges that right now, no one knows what is going to happen, she is concerned that big companies, "might have more control over everything. If you wanted to go to a certain website, it might be slowed down. You might have to pay to access that, or it might be completely blocked off what you can see. They could filter news, media, or things they don't agree with. I don't think that should be able to happen. Everybody should be able to get information."

Osgood explained that at Camden Hills Regional High School, where she is a sophomore, the students use an application called Schoology. She describes Schoology as "a huge app." The classes she takes, her grades, teacher assignments including reading, worksheets and homework are posted there. If she misses an assignment, she can "get it right away" and "pass it in." Osgood is on the school's basketball and soccer teams, and plans to run track this year as well. On Schoology, she can monitor her grades to keep them up, and avoid probation that would prevent participation in athletics.

She described a recent history assignment, that started with a reading on Schoology. "You read it, you annotate and write notes on it. Independent research was required as part of the assignment, and this is where the internet is used, and students have to document the resources they use. Class discussions of the topics follow, and the project culminates with students writing a paper. "We had to cite eight sources from our reading, and six sources from our research."

She also spoke about old books in the classrooms that are marked up, and in bad condition.

"With books, there's a certain limitation," she said. "with the old books, I don't want to say that's wrong, but it's not updated information. In my generation, we don't pay attention to books. Our access is at our fingertips on our technology."

She is concerned what she needs to do for school could be affected by the loss of net neutrality. Beyond school, she is concerned about how social media could be impacted, as it is how she connects with friends.

Lepage response

About a month after Osgood sent her email to Gov. LePage, her grandfather Rick Osgood handed her a letter that had arrived in the mail from his office. In the envelope was a copy of her letter, with a message handwritten in the white space below. The message read:

"Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor."

Hope's first impression of the governor's letter was that his comment was snarky. Other than that, she wasn't sure what to think about it.

"I'm only 16 years old, I've only talked to so many people," she said in an interview." I just thought it was rude. I didn't know how to react to that. I'm a kid. I can't really do that much."

 

She showed the letter to her grandfather. He did not like what he saw, and thought others should know about it.

 

Rick Osgood, has voted for LePage twice, and supports much of what the governor is doing in Maine. But he does not like how the governor responded to his granddaughter's letter.

"I think it's mighty rude," he said. "I think he could have explained a little more than one little sentence. He could have explained his views."

Osgood said he realizes that the governor has "has plenty to do," but feels that if he had the time to write the comment, he could have explained his feelings on the issue. Osgood sees what the governor wrote as " just a snide remark."

Both of the Osgoods question how it is that Gov. LePage can sign legislation to give students iPads for school use, and then write what he did on a letter about how changes in the internet could affect their use.

"I'm not a computer savvy person," Rick Osgood said. He thinks students "ought to learn to read, write and do arithmetic before they ever use a computer."

"But in this day and age, they need the computer. Reading a book is fine, but it isn't the answer."

Overall, Osgood is in favor of much of what LePage is doing, and said he does not intend any disrespect towards the governor. "I think he's doing a great job on some things and other things not so much. I'm still in favor of what he's doing, things have to change."

On the other hand, due to the letter exchange, if the term-limited governor were to run for another elected office, he will not get Osgood's vote.

"I voted for him but I shan't again. If he decides to run in the Senate, he has one less vote."

Gov. LePage's communications director and press secretary did not respond to telephone and email requests for a response by press deadline.