The Internet was created and envisioned as an open platform for education and research, and that is at the core of what colleges do.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to approve a proposal to repeal its net neutrality rules, which uphold the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Today’s announcement followed a contentious comment period in which ACE and other higher education groups identified the negative impact this could have on institutions.
The FCC’s protections ban internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, slowing, or providing preferred treatment to particular sites and services. Preserving an open internet is essential for what we all do and value as educators: research, education, the free flow of information, and other public interests served by universities and libraries.
Net neutrality protections have been in place in some form since 2005. After two different versions of the rules were struck down by the courts, the FCC in 2015 officially designated broadband providers as telecommunications companies, a move that allowed the FCC to regulate ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC will now reverse the designation of broadband providers as telecommunications companies and do away with the three major net neutrality prohibitions.
The new rules won't take effect until 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. In the meantime, members of Congress, particularly Democrats, will likely introduce legislation to try to overturn them, and lawsuits likely will be filed in an attempt to block them. Among those announcing they are suing is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as reported by The Hill.
For more on net neutrality’s importance to higher education, see this Washington Post op-ed written by ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle and Jon Fansmith, director of government relations.