EDUCAUSE Submits Letter to the FCC to Protect the Open Internet

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On February 25, EDUCAUSE, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the American Library Association (ALA) submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission  regarding the Agency’s possible actions in response to the Verizon v FCC decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The FCC announced on February 19, that it is soliciting comments on “what actions the Commission should take, consistent with [its] authority under section 706 and all other available sources of Commission authority, in light of the court’s decision.”  The court vacated certain provisions of the Agency’s 2010 Open Internet Order, which prohibited an internet service provider (ISP) from blocking or otherwise discriminating among content providers in handling Internet traffic. As previously reported, the court determined the “network neutrality” rules in the order contradicted a previous decision by the FCC, claiming the Agency had limited authority over broadband companies due to their classification as an “information service” and not a “common carrier.”  The court upheld, however, the authority of the FCC to protect the public’s access to Internet services under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In their comments, EDUCAUSE, ALA, and ARL requested that the FCC commissioners incorporate the interests of higher education institutions and libraries in their future deliberations.  The comments explain that by prioritizing delivery to end users, ISPs could favor network traffic from content providers who can pay higher rates. This could significantly disadvantage libraries and education institutions, greatly affecting the students, faculty, and community members we serve. EDUCAUSE, ALA, and ARL requested an opportunity to work with the FCC to ensure that public access to learning resources, academic and student support, faculty and peer collaboration, and other crucial services does not get sidelined by commercial Internet traffic.

Since the court ruling was issued on January 14, a petition was created on the White House’s “We the People” site, calling for the President to direct the FCC to reclassify ISPs as “common carriers.” This petition currently has over 105,000 signatures. In a response released on Tuesday, February 18 to this petition, the President did not lay out specific suggestions for further action. The White House instead noted that the FCC is an independent agency, but reaffirming the President’s support for network neutrality.

Chairman Wheeler released a statement with his vision for moving forward with network neutrality on Wednesday, February 19.  He signaled his intention to propose new regulations that would enforce and strengthen the transparency rule established in the original Open Internet Order; ensure providers do not “unfairly” block Internet traffic; and fulfill the non-discrimination rule by setting an enforceable legal standard, evaluating possible inappropriate actions on a case-by-case basis, and identifying business practices that would likely trigger FCC enforcement actions.

Wheeler also announced the creation of the docket mentioned earlier in this post to bring together all public input on the court’s decision, the net neutrality rules, and the Agency’s next steps. While no deadline for comments is laid out, the notice does state, “Comments filed within the next 30 days will be especially helpful.” In addition, Wheeler announced that the FCC will not pursue judicial review of the Verizon v FCC decision but that reclassification of Internet service as a “telecommunication service” subject to common carrier requirements could still be considered in the future.

EDUCAUSE will continue to follow these developments and work to inform the FCC’s process. Members are encouraged to check here for future updates.