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Net Neutrality to Be Revoked by Federal Communications Commission

Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik, image CC-BY-NC-SA by The Q

An open internet is the bedrock of equitable access to information.

On November 22, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published an order that will eliminate protections for net neutrality. The order reverses the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, not only repealing the reclassification of the internet as a “common carrier” and therefore subject to regulation, but also deregulating the internet and adopting minimal transparency requirements for service providers. The FCC will be voting on this order at its December 14 meeting.

Net neutrality is critical in ensuring that internet service providers do not create “fast lanes”—designated for those willing and able to pay a premium—and “slow lanes” for everyone else. The FCC’s Open Internet Orders in 2010 and 2015 sought to ensure that the internet remains open and available to all. Under new leadership, the commission now seeks to roll back protections, which will allow internet providers to block or throttle content and applications.

Although consumers expect all legal traffic over the internet to be treated equally, the FCC’s new order 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 will 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 the prioritization of content affiliated with their own companies. Ultimately, the FCC’s new approach will constrict the open internet.

“The Association of Research Libraries is disappointed that the FCC has reversed course just two years after its 2015 Open Internet Order,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of ARL and vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. “ARL will continue to advocate for an open internet in the courts and in Congress.”

Take action on this issue by calling or emailing your members of Congress and encouraging them to restore an open internet. After the FCC’s December 14 vote, Congress may seek a legislative response to the commission’s new order.

About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 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 ARL.org.