Supporting the Open Internet
May 2, 2014
You may have been hearing quite a bit about “net neutrality” in recent days. Net Neutrality is the concept behind what is often called the open Internet, which means that all lawful content and providers should be afforded the same level of access. Governments, internet service providers and others would not be allowed to discriminate by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication by providing more robust access to particular companies or applications. Many people consider net neutrality to be a fundamental piece of the Internet architecture.
In the United States, the Internet is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Net neutrality is not a new issue. In 2006, Internet2, an organization of world wide leaders in innovation, spoke to the US Senate about this issue: http://www.internet2.edu/vision-initiatives/policy-issues/
Net neutrality has been in the headlines in the last few weeks because new rules are being proposed by the FCC in response to a federal court decision that struck down the Open Internet Order in 2010. FCC Chairperson Tom Wheeler outlined his intentions for these new rules in a statement in February 2014: http://www.fcc.gov/document/statement-fcc-chairman-tom-wheeler-fccs-open-internet-rules
Recently, the text of the new rules that will be considered at the May meeting of the FCC began to circulate. While they require a baseline level of service, they also appear to allow Internet Service Providers to provide preferential treatment to some Internet companies. Net neutrality advocates are concerned that these special deals may bar small companies and organizations from being able to compete in an increasingly web-based world thus possibly stifling innovation. In addition, they believe that any limitations on net neutrality could make access more difficult for poor and marginalized populations. Educause, ALA and ARL issued a joint letter to Chairman Wheeler earlier this year addressing their concerns: http://www.districtdispatch.org/2014/02/ala-arl-educause-re-engage-fcc-network-neutrality/ They are primarily advocating for the FCC to change the classification of broadband to common carrier so it could be subject to requirements related to equitable access .
At this time, it is not clear what the impact of these changes might be on schools in terms of both access and cost.
The Virginia Society for Technology in Education supports efforts to ensure that the internet remains open as a source of content for schools, students and educators. We encourage the FCC to evaluate the impact of the net neutrality regulations on schools as part of their upcoming discussions to ensure that students and teachers have access to the fastest, most robust network available at the lowest cost.
The FCC has established an inbox for comments related to these new rules, which will be considered on May 15. Please take some time to review the resources above and provide your comments: http://www.fcc.gov/page/fcc-establishes-new-inbox-open-internet-comments