Higher ed disappointed by net-neutrality ‘loopholes’

Steven Worona, director of policy and network programs for the education-technology organization EDUCAUSE, said the net-neutrality rules contain loopholes that one day could lead major internet providers to limit access to schools that can’t pay premium prices for web service.

“If the rules are not effective in maintaining an open internet, the worst case scenario is that a bidding war develops to get access to high speed,” Worona said.  “In that type of situation, the deepest pockets have the best chance of accessing their end users. … In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising if smaller schools have more trouble than larger universities.”

Campus technologists should remain “vigilant” of signs that web providers are using loopholes in the net-neutrality rules, Worona said.

“There’s potential for great mischief, and we should watch carefully to see if that mischief is taking root,” he said. “It is unfortunate that they didn’t do more.”

Only 16 percent of the 3,439 community college campuses in the U.S. have access to the kind of high-speed internet service that is available at more than 90 percent of research universities, according to statistics released last year by the FCC.

The FCC regulations prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any websites or competing applications such as internet calling services on mobile devices, and the new rules require carriers to disclose their network management practices, too.

But the rules give wireless companies more leeway to manage data traffic, because wireless systems have more bandwidth constraints than wired networks.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the regulations will prohibit broadband providers from abusing their control over the on-ramps that consumers use to get onto the internet. He said the companies won’t be able to determine where their customers can go and what they can do online.