Higher education verbalizes why net neutrality is critical to higher education
The threat to net neutrality is real, and no, it’s not just about how slow your Netflix movie could stream on a Sunday night. Net neutrality has generated a lot of buzz lately, but higher education wants to make clear—11 principles clear—that net neutrality has the power to radically alter education for better or for worse.
In case you missed it, this past January (2014) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit nixed the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) existing net-neutrality rules. In May, the FCC said it would propose new rules that could permit telecommunications companies to charge extra for high-speed delivery of content.
Those in favor of net neutrality (aka pretty much everyone except telecommunications companies) decried the proposal, saying that the new rules, if unchanged, could prove detrimental to everything from personal online streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, et cetera) to education and the ability to access the internet and its vast amount of resources.
Why you should care about net neutrality:
Outside of public outcry, higher education took a stance early in July, drafting a set of 11 net neutrality principles http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EPO1305_1.pdf that the FCC should take note of, as well as the public and anyone interested in providing equal access to education.
(Next page: Principles 1-5)
Multiple higher education organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Library Association, EDUCAUSE, and more, drafted the principles in the belief that “preserving an open internet is essential to our nation’s freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth,” said the organizations in a release. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EPO1305_1.pdf
“The internet now serves as a primary, open platform for information exchange, intellectual discourse, civic engagement, creativity, research, innovation, teaching, and learning,” the statement continued. “We are deeply concerned that public broadband providers have financial incentives to interfere with the openness of the internet and may act on these incentives in ways that could be harmful to the internet content and services provided by libraries and educational institutions. Preserving the unimpeded flow of information over the public internet and ensuring equitable access for all people is critical to our nation’s social, cultural, educational, and economic well-being.”
Though public comment is now closed, the organizations hope the FCC and general public will take note of the principles and support net neutrality. The organizations also encourage others to join.
The 11 net neutrality principles:
1. Ensure Neutrality on All Public Networks: Neutrality is an essential characteristic of public broadband internet access. The principles that follow must apply to all broadband providers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who provide service to the general public, regardless of underlying transmission technology (e.g., wireline or wireless) and regardless of local market conditions.
2. Prohibit Blocking: ISPs and public broadband providers should not be permitted to block access to legal web sites, resources, applications, or internet-based services.
3. Protect Against Unreasonable Discrimination: Every person in the U.S. should be able to access legal content, applications, and services over the internet, without “unreasonable discrimination” by the owners and operators of public broadband networks and ISPs. This will ensure that ISPs do not give favorable transmission to their affiliated content providers or discriminate against particular internet services based on the identity of the user, the content of the information, or the type of service being provided. “Unreasonable discrimination” is the standard in Title II of the Communications Act; the FCC has generally applied this standard to instances in which providers treat similar customers in significantly different ways.
4. Prohibit Paid Prioritization: Public broadband providers and ISPs should not be permitted to sell prioritized transmission to certain content, applications, and service providers over other internet traffic sharing the same network facilities. Prioritizing certain internet traffic inherently disadvantages other content, applications, and service providers—including those from higher education and libraries that serve vital public interests.
5. Prevent Degradation: Public broadband providers and ISPs should not be permitted to degrade the transmission of internet content, applications, or service providers, either intentionally or by failing to invest in adequate broadband capacity to accommodate reasonable traffic growth.
(Next page: Principles 6-11)
6. Enable Reasonable Network Management: Public broadband network operators and ISPs should be able to engage in reasonable network management to address issues such as congestion, viruses, and spam as long as such actions are consistent with these principles. Policies and procedures should ensure that legal network traffic is managed in a content-neutral manner.
7. Provide Transparency: Public broadband network operators and ISPs should disclose network management practices publicly and in a manner that 1) allows users as well as content, application, and service providers to make informed choices; and 2) allows policy-makers to determine whether the practices are consistent with these network neutrality principles. This rule does not require disclosure of essential proprietary information or information that jeopardizes network security.
8. Continue Capacity-Based Pricing of Broadband Internet Access Connections: Public broadband providers and ISPs may continue to charge consumers and content, application, and service providers for their broadband connections to the internet, and may receive greater compensation for greater capacity chosen by the consumer or content, application, and service provider.
9. Adopt Enforceable Policies: Policies and rules to enforce these principles should be clearly states and transparent. Any public broadband provider or ISP that is found to have violated these policies or rules should be subject to penalties, after being adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
10. Accommodate Public Safety: Reasonable accommodations to these principles can be made on evidence that such accommodations are necessary for public safety, health, law enforcement, national security, or emergency situations.
11. Maintain the Status Quo on Private Networks: Owners and operators of private networks that are not openly available to the general public should continue to operate according to the long-standing principle and practice that private networks are not subject to regulation. End users (such as households, companies, coffee shops, schools, or libraries) should be free to decide how they use the broadband services they obtain from network operators and ISPs.
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