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Higher Education, Library Groups Release Net Neutrality Principles

Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik, image © The Q

Today, July 10, 2014, higher education and library organizations representing thousands of colleges, universities, and libraries nationwide released a joint set of Net Neutrality Principles (PDF) they recommend form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups believe network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth.

The organizations endorsing these principles 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 Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)
Modern Language Association (MLA)
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

Libraries and institutions of higher education are leaders in creating, fostering, using, extending, and maximizing the potential of the Internet for research, education, and the public good. These groups are extremely concerned that the recent court decision vacating two of the key “open Internet” rules creates an opportunity for Internet providers to block or degrade (e.g., arbitrarily slow) certain Internet traffic, or prioritize certain services, while relegating public interest services to the “slow lane.”

At its best, the Internet is a platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students, faculty, library patrons, local communities, and the world. Libraries and institutions of higher education make an enormous amount of Internet content available to the general public—from basic distance learning classes to multimedia instruction, cloud computing, digitized historical databases, research around “big data,” and many other educational and civic resources—all of which require an open Internet. Institutions of higher education and libraries do not object to paying for the high-capacity Internet connections that they need to support their students, faculty, administrators, and library patrons; but once connected, they should not have to pay additional fees to receive prioritized transmission of their content, services, or applications.

These groups support strong, enforceable rules to ensure that higher education and libraries can continue to deliver online educational and public interest content at a level of speed and quality on par with commercial providers. The proposed principles call upon the FCC to ban blocking, degradation, and “paid prioritization”; ensure that the same rules apply to fixed and mobile broadband providers; promote greater transparency of broadband services; and prevent providers from treating similar customers in significantly different ways.

“Colleges and universities depend on broadband Internet access to support high-quality, media-rich teaching, learning, and research,” said Diana G. Oblinger, President and CEO of EDUCAUSE. “At a time when the country views higher education and its use of technology as central to social and economic progress, we cannot make the quality and effectiveness of learning and research dependent on the capacity of institutions—and ultimately students and their families—to pay additional fees on top of the costs they already bear for broadband access. The FCC must ensure an open Internet, which is essential to higher education’s ability to fulfill its mission in the digital age.”

“America’s libraries collect, create, and disseminate essential information to the public over the Internet, and enable our users to create and distribute their own digital content and applications,” said American Library Association President Courtney Young. “Network neutrality is essential to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to Internet content and services for all. The American Library Association is proud to stand with other education and learning organizations in outlining core principles for preserving the open Internet as a vital platform for free speech, innovation, and civic engagement.”

“The FCC should use the joint principles submitted by higher education and library groups as a framework for creating rules to protect an open Internet that has fostered equitable access to information and sparked new innovations, including distance learning such as MOOCs,” said Carol Pitts Diedrichs, President of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). “Without rules governing net neutrality to ensure that blocking and discrimination do not occur, the Internet could be available only to those with the greatest financial resources to pay to have their content prioritized.”

“The Modern Language Association is committed to the principles of net neutrality that have long protected the fundamental character of the Internet as a space for open, nondiscriminatory, and creative communication,” said Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association.

“An open Internet is critical to the continued success of American higher education,” said Muriel A. Howard, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). “If the FCC were to abandon net neutrality in favor of a toll superhighway, colleges and universities would be stuck in the slow lane. This would undermine much of the promise of the Internet for research and teaching, and exclude the very entities that contributed so significantly to the development of the Internet.”

“The Internet has helped serve as a great equalizer for society—providing information on virtually everything to anyone with a connection. The enormous societal advancements over the past two decades have been made possible in large part because of students, researchers, and educators’ ability to create, discover, and improve upon research and content posted on the web,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “APLU opposes efforts to degrade Internet service, which could create a slow lane for some while prioritizing Internet access to others. Certainly Internet service providers should continue to deliver innovative services, but those services must come in the form of optional upgrades, not automatic downgrades.”

Download a PDF of this press release along with the full text of the principles.

For further information, please contact:

AASCU: Jennifer Dawn Walpole, Manager of Communications, (202) 478-4665, walpolej@aascu.org

ALA: Jazzy Wright, Press Officer, (202) 628-8410, ext. 8208, jwright@alawash.org

ARL: Krista Cox, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, (202) 296-2296, krista@arl.org

COSLA: Timothy Cherubini, Executive Director, (859) 514-9826, tcherubini@amrms.com

EDUCAUSE: Jarret Cummings, Director, Policy and External Relations, (202) 331-5372, jcummings@educause.edu

MLA: Rosemary Feal, Executive Director, (646) 576-5000, rfeal@mla.org

About the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents more than 1,100 two-year, associate degree–granting institutions and more than 13 million students. AACC promotes community colleges through five strategic action areas: recognition and advocacy for community colleges; student access, learning, and success; community college leadership development; economic and workforce development; and global and intercultural education.

About the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
AASCU is a Washington, DC–based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.

About the American Council on Education (ACE)
Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy. For more information, please visit http://www.acenet.edu/ or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.

About the American Library Association (ALA)
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 57,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About the Association of American Universities (AAU)
The Association of American Universities is an association of 60 US and two Canadian research universities organized to develop and implement effective national and institutional policies supporting research and scholarship, graduate and professional education, undergraduate education, and public service in research universities.

About the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 234 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is North America’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, four US territories, Canada, and Mexico. Annually, APLU member campuses enroll 4.7 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.1 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $41 billion in university-based research.

About the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
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/.

About the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)
COSLA is an independent organization of the chief officers of state and territorial agencies designated as the state library administrative agency and responsible for statewide library development. Its purpose is to provide leadership on issues of common concern and national interest; to further state library agency relationships with federal government and national organizations; and to initiate cooperative action for the improvement of library services to the people of the United States. For more information, visit http://www.cosla.org/.

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. EDUCAUSE supports those who lead, manage, and use information technology in higher education through a comprehensive range of resources and activities, including analysis, advocacy, community building, professional development, and knowledge creation. The current membership comprises more than 2,400 colleges, universities, and related organizations, including nearly 350 corporations, with over 68,000 active members. (http://www.educause.edu/)

About the Modern Language Association (MLA)
The Modern Language Association promotes the study and teaching of languages and literatures through its programs, publications, annual convention, and advocacy work. The MLA exists to support the intellectual and professional lives of its members; it provides opportunities for members to share their scholarly work and teaching experiences with colleagues, discuss trends in the academy, and advocate for humanities education and workplace equity. The MLA aims to advance the many areas of the humanities in which its members currently work, including literature, language, writing studies, screen arts, digital humanities, pedagogy, and library studies. The MLA facilitates scholarly inquiry in and across periods, geographical sites, genres, languages, and those disciplines in higher education that focus on questions about communication, aesthetic production and reception, translation, and interpretation.

About the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)
NAICU serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education. With more than 1,000 member institutions and associations, NAICU reflects the diversity of private, nonprofit higher education in the United States. They include traditional liberal arts colleges, major research universities, church- and faith-related institutions, historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, single-sex colleges, art institutions, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.