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US Appeals Court Upholds Open Internet Order Governing Net Neutrality

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

In an important victory for libraries, higher education, and consumers, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit released today its long-awaited opinion in US Telecom Association v. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), upholding the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order by a 2-1 vote. The Open Internet Order reclassified broadband Internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act and set forth five rules to protect net neutrality: bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet content; a general conduct rule; and an enhanced transparency rule.

The first three Open Internet Order rules ensure that Internet providers cannot create “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” that would allow network operators to give priority to entertainment or other commercial content over education, civic engagement, access to information, or other services. The general conduct rule is a flexible standard to protect against unreasonable interference or disadvantage brought about by unforeseen practices, including those made possible by technological innovations and advances. The enhanced transparency rule requires broadband service providers to disclose enough accurate and truthful information about their services for customers to make informed choices.

“Today’s decision by the DC Circuit Court upholding net neutrality rules ensures that the Internet will continue to operate as an open platform for education, research, learning, freedom of speech and expression, and innovation,” said ARL president Larry Alford. “The rule banning paid prioritization defends non-commercial expression from being squeezed out by commercial content. And the general conduct rule establishes that the FCC can protect against future harms.”

The Association of Research Libraries, togther with the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, filed an amicus brief (PDF) in this case in September 2015 supporting the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The groups noted the importance of an open Internet for libraries and higher education:

As broadband subscribers, providers of Internet access points to patrons, and providers of digital content and services, libraries rely on the open character of the Internet to achieve their missions of providing equitable access to information, enhancing education and promoting life-long learning, supporting democracy and informed citizenry, and protecting intellectual freedom.   

For more details and interpretation of today’s ruling, see the June 14 ARL Policy Notes blog post, “DC Circuit Court Upholds FCC’s Open Internet Order Governing Net Neutrality.”

About ARL

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 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/.


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