For immediate release | December 14, 2010

ALA relays concerns about upcoming net neutrality order to FCC

WASHINGTON – The American Library Association (ALA) along with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and EDUCAUSE have sent a letter (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stressing the importance of ensuring the upcoming network (net) neutrality order contains sufficient protections for library and higher education services made available to the public.

“The current proposal, as we understand it, is based on the legislative language submitted into the record by U.S. Rep. (Henry A.) Waxman. We fear that this form of proposed net neutrality is not true net neutrality and may not apply to non-profits, such as libraries and education entities, who both create and provide access to Internet content,” Corey Williams, associate director for the ALA’s Office of Government Relations (OGR), said.

“Without true net neutrality, libraries cannot ensure a level playing field for our patrons – the public – to access the content of their choosing at comparable speeds via the Internet.”

The associations specifically ask the FCC to address the following concerns prior to the scheduled vote on the net neutrality order set for Dec. 21.

• The definition of Broadband Internet Access Service should not be limited to “consumer” retail services. If the word “consumer” is defined as a “residential” consumer, then libraries and higher education would not be protected by the proposed net neutrality rules and policies.

• Net neutrality protections should be limited to “lawful traffic” (as in the Waxman draft legislation). Broadband operators should not be given absolute discretion to block traffic based on their own private determination that it is unlawful. It is inconsistent with core First Amendment values to allow broadband operators to impose prior restraints on Internet speakers without the benefit of a prior judicial determination or other adequate due process.

• ALA, ARL and EDUCAUSE believe “paid prioritization” should be banned altogether. Higher education and libraries already pay subscriber fees to obtain access to the Internet. Our concern is that such prioritization puts not-for-profit educational institutions at a disadvantage compared to entertainment and for-profit educational entities.

• Wireless services should be treated the same as wireline services. All Internet subscribers, whether using wireline or wireless technologies, should have the same right to a neutral, non-prioritized Internet. There is no defensible reason to apply weaker safeguards to wireless than wireline technologies.

• The definition of Broadband Internet Access Service should not be limited to providers serving “all or substantially all Internet end points.” This could be a loophole that allows a broadband provider to construct a service limited to a subset of Internet access points as a way to evade net neutrality protections.


Jennifer Terry