Magazine article Information Outlook

NCLIS Opposes Tiered Net Services

Magazine article Information Outlook

NCLIS Opposes Tiered Net Services

Article excerpt

The U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) has urged Congress to take all necessary action to ensure a status of "Internet neutrality."

"The current discussion centers on whether content transmission on the Internet should be subject to a system of prioritization known as 'tiered service'," said Commission Chair Beth Fitzsimmons. "So far, the underlying transmission of information treats all packets of information equally, but this could change unless Congress acts to prevent a move to a tiered service."

A tiered system of transmission would permit a substantial shift in Internet operations, allowing Internet service providers to charge the content creators. Thus higher fees would make content more available, since that content would be more accessible, but those paying lower fees would have access to their content downgraded, as Fitzsimmons put it, "to the slow lane of the Internet highway."

"Content created by organizations with deep pockets would rise to the top of a search, with the higher fees essentially enabling a content provider to 'buy' a higher position in a search," Fitzsimmons continued. "Content created by organizations with limited funding for such costs--community groups, schools and other educational institutions, non-profits, and the scholarly publishing field, for example--would be greatly restricted in having their materials available in the early stages of a search."

The commission takes the position that Congress should take action to assure the tiered access is prevented.

According to a study done under contract for the commission, the government has already taken a stand. In 1992, when Congress permitted commercial traffic on the Internet, the committee report on the legislation noted that the change did not alter the "goals or characteristics" of the network. …

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