Tag Archives: net neutrality

ARL Urges US House of Representatives to Restore Net Neutrality

*Cross-posted from ARL News*

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is profoundly disappointed with the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the Open Internet Order, which takes effect today, June 11, 2018. ARL is calling on the House of Representatives to reverse the FCC’s decision and restore net neutrality, a bedrock of equitable access to information.

As of today, internet service providers (ISPs) can legally prioritize some voices—those willing and able to pay a premium—over others, such as nonprofit organizations or people holding minority viewpoints. Instead of ensuring that users can access the content of their choosing on an equitable basis, the FCC is now relying solely on market forces to regulate the flow of internet traffic. This will almost certainly lead to many blocking/paid-prioritization arrangements between ISPs and commercial entities.

One possible avenue to retain net neutrality is through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under CRA, Congress can overturn an agency’s decision with a simple majority vote in both houses within 60 legislative days of publication of the agency’s decision in the Federal Register. If both houses vote to overturn the decision, it will then require the signature of the President. The CRA resolution to reverse the FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order passed the Senate 52-47 on May 16. The House of Representatives can save net neutrality by taking up the issue and voting in favor of the similar CRA resolution introduced by Representative Doyle (D-PA). The House must act by mid-July if it is to pass a CRA resolution restoring the Open Internet Order.

“Net neutrality was essentially a nondiscrimination rule enabling the free and open exchange of ideas, thereby helping libraries fulfill their mission of advancing education, innovation, knowledge creation, and economic growth,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of ARL and vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “We call on the House of Representatives to pass the CRA resolution restoring the open internet and we urge President Trump to sign it.”

Challenges to the FCC’s repeal of the Open Internet Order are also currently pending before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. ARL is working with other library and higher education associations to advocate for the restoration of strong net neutrality protections through submission of an amicus brief highlighting the importance of these rules for access to information, research, education, and freedom of speech.

Take action on this issue by emailing, calling, or tweeting to your Representatives and encouraging them to restore an open internet by voting for the CRA resolution. Battle for the Net provides an easy way to email, call, and tweet to your lawmakers.

In Vote to Restore Net Neutrality Rules, Several Senators Note Importance of Open Internet for Research, Education and Equity

Today, May 16, 2018, the US Senate voted 52-47 to reverse the FCC’s decision that would eviscerate protections for net neutrality.  The Senate used a procedure known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), allowing Congress to reverse an agency’s decision with a simple majority vote within 60 legislative days of publication of an agency’s decision in the Federal Register. ARL and other net neutrality advocates are celebrating this vote, which as of just a week ago was not assured of passage.

All 49 members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the discharge petition and resolution, originally introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA), and were joined by Republican Senators Collins of Maine, Kennedy of Louisiana and Murkowski of Alaska.

The debate on the floor (video available here) included several statements acknowledging the importance of net neutrality to a wide range of constituents, including the research, library and education communities.  For example, Senator Nelson (D-FL) pointed out that education is built on an open Internet:

. . . and that’s why educators and librarians throughout the country have rallied in favor of net neutrality, knowing that an Internet is no longer free and open is a lost education opportunity for our children. Florida’s colleges, universities, and technical schools rely on the free and open Internet for their vital educational and research missions. Unfettered access to the Internet is essential to research, research into issues as critical to the state and nation as medical research, climate change, sea level rise, whatever the research is.

Nelson went on to note the importance of an open Internet as an equitable issue:

Citizens throughout my home state rely on the internet for civic and social engagement. The internet is today’s social forum. It’s a tool that we use to stay engaged in the lives of family, friends, and peers. The internet can also be an equalizing force, and as such has been a place where communities of color have been able to tell their own stories in a way that they have never been able to tell before, and it has given minority communities the power to organize, to share, and to support each other’s causes every.

Senator Murray (D-WA) spoke as a former educator, pointing out:

Schools have worked very hard to improve access to high-speed connectivity for all students because they know from early education through higher education and through workforce training, students need high-speed internet in order to learn and get the skills that they need.

Senator Markey cited a wide range of stakeholders supporting net neutrality as a right:

This vote is a test of the United States Senate and the American people are watching very closely. This vote is about small businesses, librarians, school teachers, innovators, social advocates, YouTubers, college students and millions of other Americans who have spoken with one voice to say, “Access to the Internet is our right and we will not sit idly by while this Administration stomps on that right.” This vote is our moment to show our constituents that the United States Senate can break through the partisanship and break past the powerful outside influences to do the right thing. The right thing for our economy, the right thing for our democracy, the right thing for our consumers, and the right thing for our future. This is common sense to Americans around the country, with the only exception being telecom lobbyists and lawyers inside the beltway. How do I know? Because 86% of all Americans in polling agree that net neutrality should stay on the books as the law of the United States.

Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) urged his fellow Senators to vote in favor of the CRA resolution and treat the Internet as a public good, ensuring that discrimination does not occur.  He noted that without net neutrality,

. . . the Internet wouldn’t operate on a level playing field. Big corporations and folks who could pay would enjoy the benefits of fast internet and speedy delivery to their customers, while start-ups, small businesses, public schools, average folks, communities of color, rural Americans could well be disadvantaged. Net neutrality protected everyone and prevented large ISPs from discriminating against any customers. That era, the era of a free and open Internet, unfortunately will soon come to an end . . .

It may not be a cataclysm on day one, but sure as rain, if Internet service providers are given the ability to start charging more for preferred service, they’ll find a way to do it . . .Let’s treat the Internet like the public good that it is. We don’t let water companies or phone companies discriminate against customers. We don’t restrict access to interstate highways saying you can ride on the highway, you can’t. We shouldn’t do that with the Internet either.

This Senate vote in favor of restoring net neutrality protections will put pressure on the House of Representatives, which will need all members of the Democratic caucus plus 22 Republicans to discharge the petition and force a vote. While action using CRA in the House of Representatives faces an uphill battle, public polling reveals that more than 80% of Americans support net neutrality and this issue is one that will likely be a prominent in the upcoming elections. Battle for the Net provides an easy tool for individuals to contact lawmakers and urge them to vote to reverse the FCC’s decision.

For a deeper dive into impacts of the loss of net neutrality for research and higher education as well as legal and policy issues, see the latest issue of Research Library Issues. For additional statements and materials related to today’s vote in the Senate, visit this post on InfoDOCKET.

#RedAlert: One More Vote Needed in the Senate to Save #NetNeutrality

In mid-December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reverse the strong net neutrality protections that had been put into place by the 2015 Open Internet Order. Since that time, advocates for net neutrality—an important concept based on the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should permit access to all lawful content, without favoring some content over others—have continued to fight to ensure that the open character of the internet remains.

In addition to challenging the FCC’s actions through litigation, one possible avenue to retain net neutrality protections is through a process in Congress known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under CRA, Congress can overturn an agency’s decision through a simple majority vote in both houses within 60 legislative days of publication of an agency’s decision in the Federal Register. It would then require the signature of the President.

Soon after a CRA resolution was introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA) to reverse the FCC’s decision, the Senate version garnered enough co-sponsors to force a vote under Senate rules and Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to hold a vote. To date, 50 senators have co-sponsored the resolution, including all 49 members of the Democratic caucus and Senator Collins (R-ME). Only one more vote is needed for CRA to pass the Senate and with today’s discharge petition, a vote will take place in the Senate by June 12.

An open internet is fundamental to ensuring that access to information remains equitable and that some content is not privileged over others. Net neutrality is based on critical non-discrimination principles, promoting freedom of speech and the Senate could take a welcome step in confirming the importance of an open internet. For a deeper dive into impacts of the loss of net neutrality for research and higher education as well as legal and policy issues, see the latest issue of Research Library Issues.

To help secure one more vote—the critical vote for passage of CRA in the Senate—contact your Senator. Battle for the Net provides an easy way to e-mail, call and tweet your lawmaker.

ARL Urges FCC To Maintain Strong Net Neutrality Provisions, Submits Two Sets of Reply Comments

Last week, ARL submitted two sets of reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the Commission to maintain strong protections for net neutrality.  ARL joined with eight other higher education associations to file reply comments noting that an open Internet is fundamental to the service missions of institutions of higher education and libraries, that Title II provides a strong legal basis to protect and preserve an open Internet, while also pointing to possible protections the FCC could enact under Section 706.  Additionally, ARL submitted individual reply comments that highlight the importance of net neutrality to ARL institutions, urges the FCC to maintain protections under Title II (noting that it is the clearest path to regulatory certainty), and noting the importance of an open Internet to the First Amendment.

ARL’s reply comments note that while ensuring strong net neutrality rules consistent with joint principles released by library and higher education groups are the primary concern,

…if the FCC reclassifies, the resulting conundrum is this: if the FCC attempts to adopt strong rules, the stronger they are the more judicially-vulnerable they are. If the FCC responds to this appellate vulnerability and adopts relatively weak rules, it shifts the risk to consumers, exposing them to abusive ISP practices.

An open Internet is critical to the functioning of the Internet today, including for the cutting-edge research, platforms, innovations and collaboration that takes place at ARL members. In addition to several examples of the importance of an open Internet to ARL’s work and services included in the reply comments, additional examples have been collected on this page. Net neutrality enables libraries to provide access to vast troves of data, facilitate discovery, preserve and share culture and information, provide interactive connected spaces and classrooms, facilitate data management, offer online courses, and provide international, interconnected wifi access.

Read ARL’s press release here.

Battle for the Net: Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality

Today, July 12, 2017, ARL is joining thousands of websites and tens of thousands of individuals in participating in an Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality. This day of action is designed to draw attention to the importance of net neutrality and the current threats an open Internet faces due to new leadership at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The strong net neutrality rules we currently have in place, set forth in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, were fought for and won by millions of people and organizations who took action by submitting comments to the FCC in support of strong rules protecting the Internet. ARL joined with other library and higher education organizations to submit principles, comments and reply comments pointing out the importance of net neutrality to our institutions and users. The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order provided clear rules, grounded in a strong legal basis, when it reclassified

All Internet users should be concerned about the FCC’s efforts to roll back net neutrality. Without strong rules to preserve an open Internet, service providers will have the ability and incentive to block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization, drastically changing the character of the Internet from an even playing field to one in which only the wealthy can afford to have their content prioritized. Strong net neutrality rules are essential to protect online free speech and innovation.

You can take action by contacting the FCC and Congress, which can be done easily at Battle for the Net. The Internet should not be divided into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” It should remain open, so that all voices and content may have equal footing, rather than elevating only the voices of those who have the means and are willing to pay a premium.

Today’s Day of Action will harness the power of the Internet to make sure that ordinary Internet users can make their voices heard and a wide range of organizations will be participating, from library groups such as ALA and ARL, to civil society groups like Demand Progress and EFF, to social media sites like Twitter and Snapchat, to video hosting or streaming sites like Netflix and Vimeo, to journalism sites such as The Nation and Daily Kos, to companies like Amazon and Dropbox. A full list of participants is available on the Day of Action page.

Celebrating 20 Years of Internet Free Speech

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Reno v. ACLU, a case that determined that certain provisions of the Communication Decency Act (CDA) – which sought to govern speech online – violated the right to free speech. This decision was a landmark decision, the Court’s first about the Internet and applied the same freedom of speech rules for print to speech on the Internet (both of which are more open than TV or radio broadcasts).

The CDA was designed to protect children from “obscene or indecent” content. However, because of the breadth and vagueness of the provisions, the Court found that the CDA could also suppress speech to adults:

We are persuaded that the CDA lacks the precision that the First Amendment requires when a statute regulates the content of speech. In order to deny minors access to potentially harmful speech, the CDA effectively suppresses a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to receive and to address to one another.

The Court found that less restrictive alternatives could be used to achieve the same goal of reducing explicit content to children. The CDA, however, resulted in “an unnecessarily broad suppression of speech addressed to adults.”

Reno v. ACLU is a decision that gave us the Internet as we know it today. One that is free and open, a modern town square. Celebrating this landmark ruling brings to mind a number of related issues that are at the forefront of discussions today. While Reno v. ACLU gave us a ruling that established that freedom of speech applies online, we are still fighting for strong net neutrality rules that keeps the Internet open to all and does not favor one speech over another. While the Supreme Court’s Reno v. ACLU decision applied the same First Amendment protections to online speech as print, we are still fighting for reforms to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act to ensure that the same Fourth Amendment protections that apply to print apply to online communications.

Let’s celebrate 20 years of Reno v. ACLU, but remember that there is still work to be done to ensure that Constitutional rights apply with the same force in the digital world as it did in an analog one.

ICYMI: New Advocacy and Public Policy Update

On May 19, 2017, ARL released its latest Advocacy and Public Policy Update. The topics covered in this update include various copyright issues (Register of Copyrights bill, Copyright Office study on moral rights, Copyright Office rulemaking on modernizing copyright recordation, and numerous amicus briefs filed), LSU v. Elsevier, appropriations, access to and preservation of government data, net neutrality, developments on trade agreements, and issues related to immigration and border control.  The full update is available here.

 

ARL Joins Higher Education and Library Groups to Oppose Changes to Net Neutrality Rules

On May 18, 2017, the FCC voted 2-1 to move forward with its notice of proposed rulemaking to roll back net neutrality protections that were set forth in the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order. The FCC appears to want to reverse course on Title II reclassification, which provided the strong legal basis for the no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization rules, and potentially give enforcement oversight to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instead. ARL joined higher education and library groups in issuing the following statement:

May 18, 2017

No Changes to Net Neutrality Law Necessary, say Higher Ed and Library Groups

Since the passage of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, internet users have benefited from strong and enforceable net neutrality policies, which are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth for all Americans. Today’s vote puts those protections in jeopardy.

Libraries and institutions of higher education are leaders in maximizing the potential of the Internet for research, education, teaching and learning, and the public good.  In the modern era, a free and open internet is essential to our public missions. The current net neutrality rules – no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization, backed by a general conduct standard to ensure net neutrality adapts as the Internet evolves – generated unprecedented public support, and the validity of both the rules and the process that produced them has been affirmed by the DC Circuit Court.

Given all these factors, we believe no changes to the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order are necessary.  We urge the Commission to rescind the NPRM approved today and work with all stakeholders to enhance flexibility and innovation within the existing framework. Application of the rules to this point has demonstrated that the Commission can manage the regulatory environment for Internet access without undermining the sound, legal basis for network neutrality.

Should the FCC continue down the path proposed in the NPRM, however, the higher education and library communities would again draw the Commission’s attention to the network neutrality principles for which we have consistently advocated. We believe the Commission can and should frame any efforts to support an open Internet around these principles, and we will work through the rulemaking process to sustain strong network neutrality rules based on them.

We look forward to working with the FCC on ensuring that the Internet remains open.

The organizations endorsing this statement are:

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)

American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)

American Council on Education (ACE)

American Library Association (ALA)

Association of American Universities (AAU)

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)

Association of Research Libraries (ARL)

Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)

Council of Independent Colleges

EDUCAUSE

National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)

The Future of Net Neutrality?

The net neutrality saga continues to unfold and it appears that threats against an open Internet may be at even greater risk today, given new leadership at the FCC and an Administration that has been extremely critical of net neutrality.

Net neutrality is essential for libraries and higher education to carry out our missions and ensure protection of freedom of expression, educational achievement, research and economic growth.  ARL celebrated the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and the D.C. Circuit’s ruling upholding the Order. It remains under threat, however, because of ongoing litigation, efforts by members of Congress to roll back regulations, and statements by FCC Chairman Pai vowing to take a “weed whacker” to the net neutrality rules.

On March 30, 2017, higher education and library organizations reaffirmed their commitment to net neutrality and the Federal Communication Commission’s  (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order.  This coalition sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and Congressional leadership articulating the principles that should form the basis of any review of the Open Internet Order. These principles call on the FCC to ensure that no blocking, degradation or paid prioritization occurs.  Absent protections to ensure that the Internet remains open, the letter notes that Internet service providers have incentives to block or degrade traffic and create “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

While net neutrality remains critical to freedom of expression and education, it faces serious obstacles going forward. Chairman Pai not only voted against the 2015 Open Internet Order, but has been taking private meetings with large broadband providers where has has reportedly been promising to overturn net neutrality protections. While Pai has not laid out an extensive plan to address net neutrality, reports suggest that the Chairman wants to replace the protections under the Open Internet Order with “voluntary commitments” from broadband Internet service providers. Theoretically, while these “voluntary commitments” to not block or throttle traffic might be enforceable at the FTC, some note that such oversight could be extremely difficult. Moving enforcement to the FTC means that complaints can only be brought after a harm occurs, which is likely to favor the broadband providers. Additionally, because they are only “voluntary commitments,” some providers may choose not to adopt any open internet principles absent regulations to protect net neutrality. In fact, as the D.C. Circuit noted in its 2014 opinion overturning the 2010 Open Internet Order (prior to the FCC’s reclassification under Title II), broadband providers certainly have an incentive to abuse their power and discriminate or block certain types of Internet traffic:

Because all end users generally access the Internet through a single broadband provider, that provider functions as a ‘terminating monopolist,’ with power to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ with respect to edge providers that might seek to reach its end-user subscribers … this ability to act as a ‘gatekeeper’ distinguishes broadband providers from other participants in the Internet marketplace—including prominent and potentially powerful edge providers such as Google and Apple—who have no similar ‘control [over] access to the Internet

Chairman Pai is expected to release his plan on net neutrality this week, in advance of the FCC’s May agenda. However, to reverse the 2015 decision to reclassify broadband Internet service under Title II, the FCC would likely need to demonstrate substantial changes in the environment for a court to uphold such a reversal. Absent such a showing of substantial changes, a decision by the FCC to suddenly reverse course merely because of a change in leadership would likely be seen as arbitrary and capricious. ARL will closely track Chairman Pai’s plan and any FCC movement on this issue.

Meanwhile, some members of Congress continue to express an interest in rolling back the protections of the FCC’s Open Internet Order. While it is possible that some type of compromise bill could emerge in Congress to provide at least some protections for net neutrality, ultimately such a bill would weaken the rules under the 2015 Open Internet Order.

Network Neutrality in the Cross Hairs

*Jointly authored by Larra Clark, Krista Cox and Kara Malenfant*

It is widely reported that network neutrality is one of the most endangered telecommunications policy gains of the past two years. The ALA, ARL and ACRL—with EDUCAUSE and other library and higher education allies—have been on the front lines of this battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, and the courts for more than a decade. Here’s an update on where we stand, what might come next, and what the library community may do to mobilize.

What’s at stake: Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular services or websites. Net neutrality is essential for library and educational institutions to carry out our missions and to ensure protection of freedom of speech, educational achievement, research and economic growth. The Internet has become the pre-eminent platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students, faculty, library patrons, local communities, and the world.

In February 2015, the FCC adopted Open Internet rules that provided the strongest network neutrality protections we’ve seen, and which are aligned with library and higher education principles for network neutrality and ongoing direct advocacy with FCC and other allies. The rules:

  • Prohibit blocking or degrading access to legal content, applications, services, and non-harmful devices; as well as banning paid prioritization, or favoring some content over other traffic;
  • Apply network neutrality protections to both fixed and mobile broadband, which the library and higher education coalition advocated for in our most recent filings, as well as (unsuccessfully) in response to the 2010 Open Internet Order
  • Allow for reasonable network management while enhancing transparency rules regarding how ISPs are doing this;
  • Create a general Open Internet standard for future ISP conduct; and
  • Re-classify ISPs as Title II “common carriers.”

As anticipated, the decision was quickly challenged in court and in Congress. A broad coalition of network neutrality advocates successfully stymied Congressional efforts to undermine the FCC’s Open Internet Order, and library organizations filed as amici at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. In June 2016, the three-judge panel affirmed the FCC’s rules.

What’s the threat:  During the presidential campaign, and with more specificity since the election, President-elect Donald Trump and members of his transition team, as well as some Republican members of Congress and the FCC, have made rolling back network neutrality protections a priority for action.

Here’s a sample of what we are reading and hearing these days:

“The fate of the agency’s net neutrality rules will be the FCC’s biggest fight of the year.”

“2015 was the year the Federal Communications Commission grew a spine. And 2017 could be the year that spine gets ripped out.”

“Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai yesterday vowed to take a ‘weed whacker’ to FCC regulations after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, with net neutrality rules being among the first to be cut down.”

“The caucus recommends undoing the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 regulation, on the grounds that it did too much in a stroke.”

“Pai and O’Rielly will have a 2-1 Republican majority on the FCC after the departure of Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler on January 20. Pai previously said that the Title II net neutrality order’s ‘days are numbered’ under Trump, while O’Rielly said he intends to ‘undo harmful policies’ such as the Title II reclassification.”

As in the past, attacks on network neutrality may take many different forms, including new legislation, judicial appeal to the Supreme Court, initiating a new rulemaking and/or lack of enforcement by new FCC leadership, or new efforts by ISPs to skirt the rules.

For instance, there may be an effort by some Members of Congress to craft a “compromise” bill that would prohibit blocking and degradation by statute but reverse the FCC’s decision to classify ISPs as Title II common carriers. We are wary, however, that this so-called compromise may not give the FCC the authority to enforce the statutory rules.

So, now what? As the precise shape of the attacks is still taking form, the library and higher education communities are beginning to connect and engage in planning discussions. We will monitor developments and work with others to mobilize action to ensure Open Internet protections are preserved.

Library advocates can help in several ways:

  • Stay informed via District Dispatch blog (subscribe here) and ARL Policy Notes blog (subscribe here)
  • Sign up for Action Alerts so we can reach you quickly when direct action is needed
  • Share your stories, blog and engage on social networks about the importance of network neutrality and the need to defend it

*Larra Clark is Deputy Director for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy and Public Library Association. Krista Cox is ARL Director of Public Policy Initiatives. Kara Malenfant is ACRL Senior Strategist for Special Initiatives.