Today, May 16, 2018, the United States Senate voted 52-47 in favor of protecting an open internet, a bedrock of equitable access to information.
In mid-December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reverse the strong net neutrality protections that had been put into place by the 2015 Open Internet Order. Since that time, advocates for net neutrality—an important concept based on the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should permit access to all lawful content, without favoring some content over others—have continued to fight to ensure that the internet remains open.
One possible avenue to retain net neutrality protections is through the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Under CRA, Congress can overturn an agency’s decision with a simple majority vote in both houses within 60 legislative days of publication of the agency’s decision in the Federal Register. If both houses vote to overturn the decision, it will then require the signature of the President. Senator Markey (D-MA) introduced the CRA resolution to reverse the FCC’s decision on the Open Internet Order that succeeded today. Representative Doyle (D-PA) has introduced the CRA resolution in the House, but a majority of the House is required to force a vote on the resolution, unlike in the Senate where only 30 cosponsors were needed to force a vote to the floor.
“The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is elated that the US Senate listened to the vast majority of constituents, who support net neutrality, and passed this resolution to restore the open internet,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of ARL and vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “Now we call on the House of Representatives to pass the resolution and we urge President Trump to sign it.”
Although consumers expect all legal traffic over the internet to be treated equally, the FCC’s 2017 vote would allow some content—from those willing to pay a premium—to be prioritized over other voices, such as nonprofit organizations or people holding minority viewpoints. Instead of ensuring that users can access the content of their choosing on an equal basis, the FCC would rely solely on market forces. This approach ignores the fact that, prior to the Open Internet Orders, internet service providers have been shown to engage in discriminatory practices and paid prioritization, including favoring content affiliated with their own companies. Ultimately, the FCC’s new approach would constrict the open internet.
Take action on this issue by emailing, calling, or tweeting to your Representatives and encouraging them to restore an open internet. Battle for the Net provides an easy way to email, call, and tweet to your lawmakers.
Update (May 18, 2018): For more details see the ARL Policy Notes blog post, “In Vote to Restore Net Neutrality Rules, Several Senators Note Importance of Open Internet for Research, Education, and Equity.”
About the Association of Research Libraries
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise, promotes equity and diversity, and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.