11 University and Library Groups Release Net-Neutrality Principles

The nation’s colleges and libraries have a message for the Federal Communications Commission: Don’t mess with net neutrality.

Echoing almost a decade of pro-neutrality sentiment in academe, 11 higher-education and library groups released a set of 11 principles on Thursday that promote the notion that all Internet content, regardless of origin, should be treated equally.

The 11 principles—meant to guide the FCC as it considers new open-Internet rules—include recommendations to prohibit the blocking of legal websites, ensure neutrality on public networks, forbid paid prioritization in the transmission of some content over others, and adopt enforceable policies.

Before adopting enforceable policies, though, the FCC will have to find some that stand up in court. In January the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the commission’s existing net-neutrality rules. The FCC responded in May by saying it would propose new rules that could permit telecommunications companies to charge extra for high-speed delivery of content. Net-neutrality advocates worried then that the new rules, if unchanged, could prove detrimental to cybereducation and research collaboration, among other uses of the Internet.

In a news release accompanying the principles, the 11 organizations said the scheme proposed by the FCC would allow Internet-service providers to “give enhanced or favorable transmission to some Internet traffic, block access to certain websites or applications, or otherwise discriminate against certain Internet services for their own commercial reasons, or for any reason at all.” The organizations worry that a paid-prioritization model would shut out many nonprofit institutions.

“Libraries and higher-education institutions that cannot afford to pay extra fees could be relegated to the ‘slow lane’ on the Internet,” they said.

The public-comment period for the most recent FCC proposal runs until July 15. Although the principles laid out on Thursday do not constitute an official filing with the commission, several of the organizations that signed the statement of principles will also submit a more detailed and legally oriented response to the FCC before the comment period expires.

The organizations that signed Thursday’s principles are:

  • American Association of Community Colleges
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • American Council on Education
  • American Library Association
  • Association of American Universities
  • Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • Chief Officers of State Library Agencies
  • Educause
  • Modern Language Association
  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
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