Higher Ed/Libraries Re-Release Net Neutrality Principles

UPDATE: New FCC Rule-Making on Net Neutrality

(April 28, 2017 – Jarret Cummings) The FCC chairman released a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) on net neutrality this week, which he will ask his fellow commissioners to vote to issue at the FCC's May 18th open meeting.

The higher ed/libraries net neutrality coalition coordinated by EDUCAUSE, the Association of Research Libraries, and the American Library Association was disappointed to learn that the chairman's proposals deviate substantially from our net neutrality principles.

In fact, it's fair to question whether the FCC will have actual net neutrality rules if it ultimately adopts the chairman's proposals. Related statements make clear, for example, that the new framework would allow paid prioritization and eliminate the FCC's ability to address future anti-net neutrality conduct. See http://www.fcc.gov/document/chairman-pai-speech-future-internet-regulation and http://www.fcc.gov/document/commissioner-orielly-remarks-freedomworks-sbe-council-event.

The May 18th vote will start formal consideration of the chairman's proposals, with public comment periods likely to extend through the summer. EDUCAUSE will work with its partners to ensure that the vital public interests served by colleges, universities, and libraries are reflected in that process.

(April 3, 2017 – Jarret Cummings) EDUCAUSE recently joined with other major higher education and library associations to re-release a set of net neutrality principles. The groups, which include the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, asked the FCC as well as the relevant House and Senate committees to use the principles as the basis for any policy decisions they might make about net neutrality moving forward.

The groups felt compelled to update and re-release the net neutrality principles, which were first issued in 2014, given concerns that the FCC and/or Congress may seek to overturn the current Open Internet Order. The order established enforceable net neutrality rules reflecting the core concerns of the higher education and library communities, principally that commercial broadband providers should not be allowed to block or throttle access to lawful content or require content providers to pay for prioritized transmission of their data traffic.

Thus far, neither the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, nor the leadership of the House and Senate committees overseeing telecommunications issues have taken any formal steps to undo the net neutrality rules currently in place. EDUCAUSE will continue to work with its higher education and library partners, however, to inform policymakers about the importance of preserving net neutrality for our members and communities, and to encourage them to maintain net neutrality protections as a result.

Library and Higher Education Net Neutrality Principles (2017)

Ensure Neutrality on All Public Networks: Neutrality is an essential characteristic of broadband Internet access services provided to the general public. These neutrality principles must apply to all commercial ISPs, regardless of underlying transmission technology (e.g., wireline or wireless) and regardless of local market conditions.

Prohibit Blocking: Commercial ISPs should not be permitted to block access to legal web sites, resources, applications, or Internet-based services.

Protect Against Unreasonable Discrimination: Every person in the United States should be able to access legal content, applications, and services over the Internet, without unreasonable discrimination by commercial ISPs. This will ensure that such providers do not give favorable transmission to their affiliated content providers or discriminate against particular Internet services based on the identity of the user, the content of the information, or the type of service being provided. “Unreasonable discrimination” is the standard in Title II of the Communications Act; the FCC has generally applied this standard to ensure that commercial ISPs do not treat similar customers in significantly different ways.

Prohibit Paid Prioritization: Commercial ISPs should not be permitted to sell prioritized transmission to certain content, applications, and service providers over other Internet traffic sharing the same network facilities. Prioritizing certain Internet traffic inherently disadvantages other content, applications, and service providers — including those from higher education and libraries that serve vital public interests.

Prevent Degradation: Commercial ISPs should not be permitted to degrade the transmission of Internet content, applications, or service providers, either intentionally or by failing to invest in adequate broadband capacity to accommodate reasonable traffic growth.

Enable Reasonable Network Management: Commercial ISPs should be able to engage in reasonable network management to address issues such as congestion, viruses, and spam as long as such actions are consistent with these principles. Policies and procedures should ensure that legal network traffic is managed in a content-neutral manner.

Provide Transparency: Commercial ISPs should disclose network management practices publicly and in a manner that 1) allows users as well as content, application, and service providers to make informed choices, and 2) allows policy-makers to determine whether the practices are consistent with these network neutrality principles. This rule does not require disclosure of essential proprietary information or information that jeopardizes network security.

Continue Capacity-Based Pricing of Broadband Internet Access Connections: Commercial ISPs may continue to charge consumers and content, application, and service providers for their broadband connections to the Internet, and may receive greater compensation for greater capacity chosen by the consumer or content, application, and service provider.

Adopt Enforceable Policies: Policies and rules to enforce these principles should be clearly stated and transparent. Any commercial ISP that is found to have violated these policies or rules should be subject to penalties, after being adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

Accommodate Public Safety: Reasonable accommodations to these principles can be made based on evidence that such accommodations are necessary for public safety, health, law enforcement, national security, or emergency situations.

Maintain the Status Quo on Private Networks: Consistent with the FCC’s long-standing principles and practices, and the 2015 Order, the Commission should decline to apply the Open Internet rules to premises operators, such as coffee shops and bookstores, and private end-user networks, such as those of libraries and universities. As the FCC has historically found, end users should be free to decide how they use the broadband services they obtain from network operators and commercial ISPs.

Jarret Cummings is the Director of Policy and Government Relations for EDUCAUSE.