Higher Education and Library Groups Respond to New FCC Rule-Making on Network Neutrality

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(May 18, 2017 – Jarret Cummings) The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today on a 2-1 basis to initiate a new network neutrality rule-making process. If the ultimate outcome of that effort follows the initial analysis and recommendations presented in the approved notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM), it would result in the Commission’s current network neutrality regulations being overturned without any substantive replacement.

In turn, this would put major broadband service providers in a position to pick winners and losers online by freeing them to skew traffic over their networks toward preferred content and service providers. For colleges, universities, and libraries, this could mean broadband providers directly and actively mediating the access of end-users to our online courses, resources, and services, possibly influencing their choices in favor of alternative sources altogether. Such a development would be antithetical to the missions and values of libraries and higher education institutions. It would also be contrary to the needs and interests of the students, patrons, and communities we serve.

EDUCAUSE has once again joined with other higher education and library groups in a coalition to support strong, enforceable network neutrality protections. Earlier this year, the coalition highlighted once again the principles on which the FCC should base sound, appropriate network neutrality protections. In light of today’s action, we have released the following statement, urging the FCC to reconsider even as we prepare to vigorously advocate for effective network neutrality rules and the FCC’s continuing legal authority to implement and enforce them.

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
National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)

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