The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted yesterday to assert the strongest possible open Internet protections—banning paid prioritization and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. The American Library Association (ALA), a longtime network neutrality advocate, applauds this bold step forward in ensuring a fair and open Internet.
“America’s libraries collect, create and disseminate essential information to the public over the Internet, and ensure our users are able to access the Internet and create and distribute their own digital content and applications. Network neutrality is essential to meeting our mission in serving America’s communities,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “Today’s FCC vote in favor of strong, enforceable net neutrality rules is a win for students, creators, researchers and learners of all ages.”
As is usually the case, the final Order language is not yet available, but statements from Chairman Tom Wheeler and fellow Commissioners, as well as an earlier fact sheet (pdf) on the draft Order, outline several key provisions. The Order:
- Reclassifies “broadband Internet access service”–including both fixed and mobile—as a telecommunications service under Title II.
- Asserts “bright line” rules that ban blocking or throttling of legal content, applications and services; and paid prioritization of some Internet traffic over other traffic.
- Enhances transparency rules regarding network management and practices.
- Distinguishes between the public and private networks.
“After almost a year of robust engagement across the spectrum of stakeholders, the FCC has delivered the rules we need to ensure equitable access to online information, applications and services for all,” said Larra Clark, deputy director for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. “ALA worked closely with nearly a dozen library and higher education organizations to develop and advocate for network neutrality principles, and we are pleased the FCC’s new rules appear to align nearly perfectly.”
The FCC vote marks the end of one chapter in a lively debate over the future of the Internet, but it’s unlikely to be the last word on the matter. Yesterday the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing to discuss the issue, and several Internet service providers (ISPs) have signaled they will challenge the rules in court. ALA, working with our allies, will continue our engagement to maintain net neutrality.
“On the eve of the FCC’s vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee provided a preview of the challenges ahead in defending the open Internet,” said Kevin Maher, assistant director of the ALA Office of Government Relations. “Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the Order may lead to future regulation while not protecting consumers, while ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) countered that the Order, in fact, guarantees an open Internet.”