ARL and Higher Education Groups Urge FCC to Protect Net Neutrality

*Cross-posted from ARL News*

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has joined with eight higher education associations in submitting comments, due today, July 18, 2017, to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to support strong net neutrality rules. In 2015, the FCC set forth its Open Internet Order, which reclassified the Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act and also relied on the FCC’s authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act to provide a firm legal basis to protect net neutrality. The FCC, under new leadership, is now seeking to reverse or amend the 2015 order.

As both providers and consumers of content and services on the Internet, research libraries and their parent institutions have long relied on the open character of the global network, including non-discriminatory access. The 2015 rules assured that Internet providers would not be able to create “fast lanes”—designated for those willing and able to pay a premium—and “slow lanes” for everyone else. Specifically, the FCC laid out bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

“Net neutrality is critical to equitable access to information,” said Mary Case, ARL president and university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Without strong rules to protect an open Internet, service providers could act as gatekeepers and place commercial interests above non-commercial expression. The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order sets forth strong, clear, and enforceable rules to protect net neutrality. The FCC should look beyond the quantitative cost-benefit analysis suggested in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and recognize the qualitative benefits libraries and higher education provide through access to an open and neutral Internet. There is no reason for the FCC to alter the current rules, which ensure that intellectual freedoms such as education, research, free speech, and innovation can continue to flourish.”

The comments emphasize the importance of net neutrality to libraries and higher education, and note that no changes to the 2015 Open Internet Order are necessary. The comments also stress that any action by the FCC regarding regulation must protect the key net neutrality principles endorsed by library and higher education groups to ensure that information can continue to flow unimpeded.

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