On February 13, 2014, in a letter (PDF) to the Chairman and the Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the American Library Association (ALA), and EDUCAUSE signaled their disappointment with the recent DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC to vacate the “no blocking” and “no discrimination” rules for public Internet access set forth by the FCC in 2010. At the same time, the associations noted that the court’s recognition of the FCC’s legal authority under Section 706 to protect consumers and the public’s access to Internet services was a positive outcome. The associations stated:
Experience has proven that the public Internet provides the most “choice” when it is open to everyone. We urge you to act expeditiously to fill the void created by the court’s decision and to develop open Internet principles and enforceable policies that incorporate the interests of libraries, higher education, and the students, faculty, patrons, and communities they serve, whether that entails reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” or adopting new rules protecting consumer rights.
ARL previously issued a statement, on January 15, expressing disappointment with the ruling in Verizon v. FCC.
On February 19, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules. This statement reaffirmed the FCC’s commitment to preserving a free and open Internet.
Chairman Wheeler stated that the FCC would not appeal the DC Circuit’s judgment but would instead work to propose new rules under its Section 706 authority. He said that the FCC “will carefully consider how, consistent with the court opinion” the agency can ensure that blocking and discrimination do not take place on the Internet.
Although it does not appear that the FCC will take steps at this time to reclassify broadband provision as a telecommunications service from its current classification as an information service, the FCC has not ruled out this possibility. Chairman Wheeler noted in his statement that “as long as Title II—with the ability to reclassify Internet access service as a telecommunications service—remains a part of the Communications Act, the Commission has the ability to utilize it if warranted” and such “authority remains open.”
Furthermore, Chairman Wheeler said that the FCC would be soliciting public comment (PDF) and opened a new docket entitled “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.” While no deadline has been set for comments, the docket states that “comments filed within the next thirty days will be especially helpful.”
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.