Why Research Libraries Support an Open Internet

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Save the Internet Act, a bill designed to restore the net neutrality protections put into place in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission.  The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order reclassified broadband Internet under Title II and put in place strong rules prohibiting blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, while also including a “General Conduct Rule.”  This Order was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, but after a change of FCC leadership resulting from President Trump’s election, the FCC reversed course and eliminated these protections.  The Save the Internet Act would largely codify the 2015 Open Internet Order and passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a 30-22 last week.

ARL has long supported net neutrality, taking part in several rulemaking processes and filing comments, submitting amicus briefs, and meeting with key policymakers, because access to an open Internet is critical to the cutting edge research and creation of information platforms facilitated and supported by libraries.  As noted in ARL’s 2017 FCC Reply Comments,

Research libraries depend upon an open Internet to fulfill their missions and serve their communities. Research libraries retrieve and contribute content on the World Wide Web and the other databases that are exposed to consumers on the Internet. ARL suggests that the public interest missions of libraries are inextricably intertwined with the openness upon which the Internet is based. The democratic nature of the Internet as a neutral platform for carrying information to students, researchers and the general public is strongly aligned with the public interest missions of libraries.

The comments point to several different projects at ARL libraries that depend on an open Internet, including ones that provide access to vast datasets, create interactive connected classrooms, preserve and share cultural heritage, facilitate discovery through linked open data, and provision of Internet access itself.  The comments also cite to this collection of additional examples highlighting the importance of an open Internet to ARL member libraries.

Access to information in the digital age depends on strong protections to preserve the open character of the Internet and ensure that non-profit, educational voices are not disadvantaged.  Without rules protecting against blocking, throttling or paid prioritization, broadband providers have already demonstrated the ability and willingness to charge platforms and services more to deliver content, potentially creating fast lanes and slow lanes for information.

Today, the House has the opportunity to take another step forward in protecting an open Internet.  Battle for the Net has live coverage and advocacy tools to encourage this next step in the fight for net neutrality.