Telecommunications reform is a priority for Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Issues such as ensuring network neutrality and advanced broadband deployment are critically important to research libraries and the education community.
After years of debate and consideration, on December 21, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of enacting a narrow set of net-neutrality rules to regulate the practices of broadband providers. "Net neutrality" is the principle that Internet users should have the right to access and provide content and use services via the Internet as they wish, and that network operators should not be allowed to "discriminate"—slow, block, or charge fees—for Internet traffic based on the source or content of its message.
The wording of the net-neutrality rules, advanced by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, appears to reflect an attempt at a compromise between network operators and advocates for strong net neutrality protections—including ARL, ALA, and EDUCAUSE. Ultimately, however, the limited scope of protection in the rules has not fully satisfied the concerns voiced by parties on both sides of the issue and thus has set the stage for further debate over regulation in the courts and in Congress. ARL works with the Open Internet Coalition on this issue.
"ARL Issue Brief: FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules and Implications for Research Libraries (PDF)," by Kristen Riccard, Jan. 24, 2011.
"The Importance of Net Neutrality to Research Libraries in the Digital Age," by Kristen Riccard, Research Library Issues, no. 273 (Dec. 2010): 8-16.
To ensure advanced broadband deployment for the research library and higher education communities, ARL works with the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. The mission of the SHLB Coalition is to improve the broadband capabilities of schools, libraries, and health care providers so that they can enhance the quality and availability of the essential services they provide to the public and serve underserved and unserved populations more effectively. The Internet has become a fundamental cornerstone of modern education, learning, health care delivery, economic growth, social interaction, job training, government services, and the dissemination of information and free speech. High-capacity broadband is the key infrastructure that K–12 schools, universities and colleges, libraries, hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers need to provide 21st-century education, information, and health services. The SHLB Coalition is dedicated to ensuring that each and every library, health care provider, and school (including K–12 schools, colleges, and universities) has robust, affordable, high-capacity, broadband connections.