ACE and 19 other higher education associations submitted a brief yesterday to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a case that seeks to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality.
The commission rescinded the Obama-era net neutrality rules, designed to prevent broadband service providers from slowing or blocking internet traffic or demanding payment for faster speed across their networks, on a 3-2 party-line vote last December. The vote followed a contentious comment period in which ACE and other higher education groups identified the negative impact this could have on colleges and universities.
A series of lawsuits were filed several months ago seeking to overturn the FCC’s ruling. They have been consolidated as Mozilla Corporation v. FCC and the United States of America and are now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The associations’ brief reiterates a long-held conviction that preserving an open internet is essential for research, education, the free flow of information, and other public interests served by universities and libraries.
“As a stratified internet emerges, universities and libraries will be squeezed both as content providers and end-users,” they wrote. “Providers of internet access have incentives to charge additional fees to certain content providers in return for enhancing their delivery of certain traffic over other traffic or by blocking certain websites altogether. Eliminating the rules to prevent this behavior risks pushing universities and libraries into the “slow lane,” unable to compete with deep-pocketed commercial content providers, like Amazon and Netflix, for a limited amount of bandwidth.”
The groups say that as creators of noncommercial content, colleges and universities and libraries will be less able to rely on the market-based approach and transparency rules that the FCC believes will prevent blocking and throttling. As recipients of digital content, institutions’ extensive research and databases subscriptions will become more expensive. And the increasing number of students who take all, or some, of their classes online will likely pay a price as well.
Arguments have not yet been scheduled in the case.