AALL Files Comments in Net Neutrality Proceeding

July 22, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) filed comments together in the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s Open Internet proceeding. The comments, available here, were authored by AALL’s Government Relations Office and Government Relations Committee, with input and examples from AAHSL, MLA, and SLA.

AALL, AAHSL, MLA, and SLA urge the FCC to create open Internet rules that preserve and defend the key principle of network neutrality. Our comments focus on the important role libraries play in providing unbiased access to information over the Internet and, increasingly, as the creators and hosts of information. Libraries, for example, may provide educational opportunities online in the form of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) or host information produced by other sources, like state governments and the courts.

Our organizations oppose any open Internet rules that would allow for a tiered system of access, as is presently proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’s “commercially unreasonable” standard, which would permit the sanctioning of paid prioritization under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Paid prioritization inherently favors content providers that can pay fees for favorable treatment, while non-profit content providers like libraries, educational institutions, government agencies, and non-profit organizations are relegated to second-class delivery. We urge the FCC to establish a firm foundation for its open Internet rules by reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, while forbearing from applying any possibly unnecessary, costly, and burdensome regulations. Such reclassification would subject Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to common carrier rules that better ensure equal, nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet and require ISPs to operate more transparently.

Net neutrality is critical to libraries, their missions, and their patrons.  AALL, AAHSL, MLA, and SLA urge the FCC to create open Internet rules that preserve and defend this key principle. Over 1 million comments on net neutrality were filed with the FCC, which extended the deadline by several days after a crush of traffic to their electronic comment filing system. Though the initial comment period is now closed, a second period for reply comments will run until September 10.


FCC Opens Proposed Net Neutrality Rulemaking

May 16, 2014

By Emily Feltren

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to adopt Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on net neutrality, launching a 120 day public comment period on how to protect and promote an open Internet. The 3-2 vote was cast along on party lines, with the chairman and two Democrats voting in support and the two Republican commissioners voting against.

Reports of Chairman Wheeler’s proposal raised fears in recent weeks that the principle of net neutrality, which ensures that all Internet traffic is treated equally, could be compromised. After initial press accounts about the draft NPRM, AALL became concerned that the FCC’s proposal would allow Internet companies and websites to pay for premium access to faster data connections, creating a tiered system of broadband access that critics call “pay-to-play fast lanes” and effectively ending net neutrality. At Thursday’s commission vote, though, the Chairman’s insisted that the FCC will seriously consider public input on how “to preserve and protect the Open Internet.” The Commission also said it will “seriously consider the use of Title II of the Communications Act as the basis for legal authority,” reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service. AALL believes that this would allow the FCC to stand on firmer legal ground.

AALL strongly supports the principle of net neutrality and believes that equal access to information is a fundamental principle of the Internet. Without net neutrality, law libraries may be unable to afford the imposed fees for preferred access, and thus could not provide equal access to the online legal information their users need. We oppose any decision that would position Internet Service Providers as gatekeepers to online information.

AALL will participate in the rulemaking process. Please stay tuned for further analysis and opportunities for your participation.


Court Deals Blow to FCC Net Neutrality Rules

January 15, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) effort to require broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally and give consumers equal access to content, a principle known as net neutrality. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling the FCC could not apply anti-blocking and nondiscrimination rules to broadband providers, as it did in its 2011 Open Internet Order. The ruling means that companies could block or slow down any website, application, or service, as well as create a tiered pricing structure for Internet access. The decision threatens law libraries’ ability to provide users with a consistent, uncensored, and reliable way of accessing online legal information.

While the decision is a real loss for Internet users in the United States, the ruling strongly suggests that Internet access services and neutrality rules are well within the FCC’s purview; the agency’s legal problems stem from the decision to classify broadband Internet as an “information service,” rather than “telecommunications service.” In his recent remarks in Silicon Valley, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed strong support for Internet neutrality and reaffirmed his commitment to the open internet in a statement responding to yesterday’s ruling.  The FCC will “consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.” Should the FCC reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, net neutrality rules would stand on much firmer legal ground.

AALL strongly supports net neutrality, which protects the unique, open nature of the Internet, and promotes innovation, competition, and intellectual freedom. Without net neutrality, libraries may be unable to afford the imposed fees for preferred access, and thus could not provide equal access to the online legal information their users need. Following the D.C. Circuit’s decision, AALL will continue to work to advocate for net neutrality and will lobby policy-makers to take the necessary steps to restore the important principle of an open Internet.


Senate Rejects Net Neutrality Measure

November 10, 2011

In a victory for net neutrality, the Senate today voted against S.J. Res 6, the resolution that would have overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s recent net neutrality rules. Thank you to all of you who called your Senators to urge them to vote No on this problematic resolution!

Earlier in the week, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) reiterating President Obama’s support for net neutrality and pledging that the President would veto S.J. Res 6 if it came to his desk. The SAP states:

Disapproval of the rule would threaten those values and cast uncertainty over those innovative new businesses that are a critical part of the Nation’s economic recovery. It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.

The Senate voted 52-46, along party lines. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) did not vote.

The FCC’s rules are scheduled to take effect on November 20, but several pending lawsuits may delay their implementation. We will keep you updated as developments occur.


Contact Your Senators NOW – Ask Them to Vote NO on Net Neutrality Resolution, S.J. Res 6

November 7, 2011

[This post was updated on November 8]

The Senate is expected to vote this week on a resolution of disapproval, S.J. Res 6, which would repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules and strip the FCC of its authority to implement net neutrality.

Please call your Senators today and ask them to vote NO on S.J. Res 6. Because of the short notice, it is important that you call, rather than email, your Senators. The Government Relations Committee and Government Relations Office have posted a new one-pager on why net neutrality matters to law libraries.

The House passed an identical resolution (H.J. Res 37) in April. The FCC’s net neutrality rules are set to take effect on November 20. It is very important that you contact your Senators now to ask them to vote NO on S.J. Res 6. The vote is expected to be very close, so your calls will make a difference.


House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Approves Resolution Opposing Net Neutrality Rule

March 10, 2011

On March 9, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing and markup on H.J. Res 37, which would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rule adopted by the agency on December 21, 2010 from having any force or effect. The resolution was approved along a party-line vote of 15-8, and will now go before the full committee for a vote.

Witnesses at the highly anticipated hearing included Tom DeReggi, President, RapidDSL & Wireless; Shane Mitchell Greenstein, PhD,The Elinor and Wendell Hobbs Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University; Anna-Maria Kovacs, PhD, Strategic Choices; James Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs, AT&T; Robin Chase, CEO, Buzzcar; and S. Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press. Free Press coordinates the SavetheInternet.com Coalition, of which AALL is a member.

During the hearing, a number of themes arose: whether or not the FCC’s rules would stifle innovation and competition; whether the FCC was attempting to regulate the Internet; and whether the new rules would increase market uncertainty.

In response to the first theme, Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of the popular car-sharing service Zipcar, said, “Without an open Internet, a company like Zipcar simply would not exist.” She went on to argue that without the FCC’s net neutrality rules, broadband Internet companies have incentives to erect barriers to Internet access, “which would dramatically harm our nation’s ability to innovate and remain competitive in a world marketplace.”

In response to whether the FCC is trying to regulate the Internet, Free Press’s S. Derek Turner pointed to already-existing laws that function to preserve non-discriminatory networks, including the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104). He also noted that former FCC Chairman Michael Powell first articulated the “four Internet freedoms” in 2004. These principles served as the basis for the open Internet provisions in the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006 (H.R. 5252), which the House passed during the 109th Congress.

Finally, in regard to whether the FCC’s rules create market uncertainty, James Cicconi said that AT&T believes that the FCC “landed on middle ground” with their rules, and if interpreted narrowly, they “could be good.”

In addition, in response to written questions sent to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association before the hearing, President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said, “The plain reading of the Order, coupled with some regulatory humility, should [therefore] provide greater certainty than the status quo.”

AALL opposes H.J. Res 37. While we have expressed concerns about the possibility of tiered pricing (also known as pay-for-priority) under the FCC’s rule, as well as the lack of adequate protections for wireless broadband, we are pleased that the FCC has taken positive steps toward preserving net neutrality.

For more background information and the status of net neutrality in the 112th Congress, please see AALL’s Issue Brief, updated by Yale Law librarian Ryan Harrington.


Network Neutrality Issue Brief Updated with Analysis of New Rules

January 6, 2011

Ryan Harrington, Reference Librarian at Yale Law School, has updated AALL’s Network Neutrality Issue Brief with an excellent analysis of the new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 21, 2010. The rules require transparency of network management practices; no blocking of lawful content; and no unreasonable discrimination. The updated issue brief explains AALL’s concern, shared by many open government groups, that these new rules do not apply to mobile broadband – a significant loophole because increasing numbers of people are opting to use mobile devices to access the Internet.

Please mark your calendars for a timely one hour session on Network Neutrality during AALL’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, “Can the FCC Regulate the Internet?” (F2) on Monday, July 25 at 10:45 a.m. Ryan will moderate a lively discussion between Markham Erickson, Executive Director of the Open Internet Coalition, of which AALL is a member, and Dan Brenner, Partner at Hogan Lovells. The speakers will discuss the impact of the new rules on law libraries as well as legal challenges the FCC may face in implementing and enforcing these rules.


As Talks Break Down, What’s Next for Net Neutrality?

August 6, 2010

Talks between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and stakeholders on net neutrality fell apart yesterday, amidst reports that Google and Verizon had made a private deal over the management of Internet traffic.

The FCC had been meeting with stakeholders, including the Open Internet Coalition, of which AALL is a member, and industry groups like the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, to try to find agreement on how the FCC should proceed on net neutrality.

AALL supports Chairman Genachowski’s recent proposal to allow the FCC to regulate the transmission component of Internet access. We believe the plan is a sensible approach that would ensure that the FCC could continue to promote a free and open Internet while protecting users from discrimination. Unfortunately, many industry groups have expressed opposition to the plan, claiming that the FCC is attempting to regulate the Internet.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who co-sponsored legislation that AALL strongly supported in the 110th Congress to ensure net neutrality, yesterday urged Chairman Genachowski to move forward with his plan, stating that, “Congressional stalemate is making a legislative solution look increasingly unlikely in the near term.”

Net neutrality is a priority for AALL because law librarians are providers, creators and users of digital information, and it is up to law libraries to ensure that everyone has equal access to the information they need. We will keep you updated on the status of net neutrality as developments occur.

For background information, please read our Issue Brief. And make sure you’ve subscribed to our Advocacy Listserv, where you’ll receive alerts and updates on net neutrality in our monthly Washington E-Bulletin!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Federal Appeals Court Rules against FCC on Net Neutrality

April 6, 2010

In a very disappointing decision today from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may not prevent broadband providers from discriminating against certain types of Internet traffic. This is a significant setback for the FCC, which only recently released its ambitious National Broadband Plan to ensure that every American has access to high-speed Internet. President Obama has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to protecting net neutrality as well.

In 2007, the FCC ordered the Comcast Corporation to stop blocking subscribers from accessing BitTorrent, a free, open source peer-to-peer file-sharing application, on the grounds that Comcast was violating the FCC’s Internet Policy Statement FCC 05-151 on broadband Internet access. Comcast initially complied with the Order, but later petitioned for review.

Because the FCC has no express statutory authority to regulate an Internet service provider’s network management practices, the agency needed to prove that barring Comcast from blocking access to BitTorrent was “reasonably ancillary to the…effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities.” The Court found that the FCC failed to make this showing.

Markham Erickson, Executive Director of the Open Internet Coalition of which AALL is a member, said today, “The Court’s sweeping decision eliminates the Agency’s power to either enforce the Internet Policy Statement or possibly to promulgate new open Internet rules to protect consumers and small businesses under Title I. As a result, the FCC is now unable to police the Internet against anti-competitive and anti-consumer behavior by broadband providers, and may not be able to implement many of the elements of the National Broadband Plan.”

As explained in our Network Neutrality Issue Brief, net neutrality is very important to AALL because law librarians are providers, creators and users of digital information. Without net neutrality, law libraries may not be able to afford the necessary fees for access to the “fast lane,” preventing their users from having a consistent and reliable way of accessing important online legal information.

The Government Relations Office will continue to monitor this important issue and keep you updated as developments occur.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Senate Committee Addresses “Future of the Internet”

April 25, 2008

On April 22, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled “The Future of the Internet.” The hearing addressed consumer expectations and network operation, including network neutrality.

The hearing featured a wide array of witnesses, including Kevin J. Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. Testimony of all witnesses is available on the Committee website.

Professor Lessig, who for years focused his energies on copyright and Creative Commons, recently turned his focus to the influence of money in politics in the form of the Change Congress movement. He has developed a series of video lectures on the project which explain his ideas. Check them out for a great Friday break!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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