Institutions of higher education and libraries are leaders in creating, fostering, using, extending, and maximizing the potential of the Internet for research, education, and the public good. The groups believe network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth.
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.
In 2015, the FCC adopted and implemented “Open Internet Rules” that apply to fixed and mobile broadband service. The Open Internet Rules bans blocking, degradation, and paid prioritization, amongst other provisions. More information can be found here.
In early 2017, APLU along with other higher education and library organizations, representing thousands of colleges, universities, and libraries nationwide, released a joint set of Net Neutrality Principles. The principles call upon the FCC to maintain the approach adopted in the Open Internet Order to preserve the openness of the Internet.
The FCC released the Restoring Internet Freedom Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in May 2017, which would roll back the 2015 Open Internet Order. APLU joined a number of higher education and library associations in sending comments and reply comments on the proposed rule. These comments express concern with the FCC’s efforts to reverse the current net neutrality rules that now protect the openness of the internet. The comments also reiterate the need for strong, enforceable net neutrality policies and rules to protect and promote an open Internet, which is inextricably intertwined with the public interest missions of libraries and institutions of higher education.
On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve the draft Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, Restoring Internet Freedom, reversing the 2015 Open Internet Order. The Restoring Internet Freedom order reverses classification of mobile and fixed broadband internet access services as common carrier services, implements a “transparency only” net neutrality regime at the FCC, and eliminates the existing bright line prohibitions on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, the general conduct standard to evaluate potential threats to an open Internet.
In response to the Restoring Internet Freedom Order and scheduled vote, APLU, the five other presidential higher education associations and EDUCAUSE sent a letter to the FCC expressing serious concerns with the draft order and urging the FCC to maintain clear and enforceable net neutrality rules.