LINCOLNVILLE — A high school student who wrote to Gov. Paul LePage because she was concerned about the loss of net neutrality received a handwritten response from the governor last week in which he told her to “pick up a book and read!”

In the month leading up to the recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality regulations, Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Hope Osgood learned about the issue and how junking the longtime principle that all web traffic be treated equally could affect consumers’ internet access. While browsing social media, she found an application that would generate a letter expressing her concerns and used it to email a message to LePage.

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?”

About a month after Osgood emailed LePage, she received a response: a copy of her letter with a message handwritten in the white space below it that read: “Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor.”

Osgood’s first impression was that his comment was snarky.

“I’m only 16 years old, I’ve only talked to so many people,” she said. “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.”

Because she’s from Maine, Osgood thought a state official would be more likely to listen to her than a member of Congress. 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.”

Osgood said she’s concerned that the loss of net neutrality could impede her studies. Beyond school, she’s worried about the impact on social media because that’s how she connects with friends.

LePage’s communications director and press secretary did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment.

‘OUR ACCESS IS AT OUR FINGERTIPS’

Osgood said 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.”

The decision to eliminate net neutrality has created concerns among consumer advocates, Democrats, many web companies and ordinary Americans that the cable and phone giants will be able to control what people see and do online. The broadband industry, however, has promised that the public’s internet experience isn’t going to change.

The FCC decision is likely to be challenged in court and in Congress.

Osgood explained that at Camden Hills, the students use an application called Schoology. The classes she takes, her grades, assignments, 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 if she’s at risk of probation, which 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 said.

Osgood also noted that older books in classrooms are in bad condition or have outdated information.

“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.”

GRANDFATHER: LEPAGE ‘HAS ONE LESS VOTE’

Osgood showed the letter to her grandfather, Rick Osgood, a LePage supporter who didn’t like the tone of the governor’s response.

Rick Osgood has voted for LePage twice and supports much of what the governor is doing in Maine, but he called LePage’s message “just a snide remark.”

“I think it’s mighty rude,” he said.

Osgood said he realizes that the governor “has plenty to do,” but if LePage had the time to write the comment, he could have explained his views about the elimination of net neutrality.

“I think he could have explained a little more than one little sentence,” Osgood said.

Hope and her grandfather wondered how LePage could sign legislation to give students iPads for school work, then show no concern about how changes in internet access 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.”

Osgood said he didn’t intend any disrespect toward the governor. “I think he’s doing a great job on some things, and other things, not so much,” he said. “I’m still in favor of what he’s doing. Things have to change.”

But Osgood has changed his mind about one thing.

“I voted for him, but I shan’t again,” he said. “If he decides to run for the Senate, he has one less vote.”

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