Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Higher Ed Applauds Net Neutrality Rules, to a Point

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Higher Ed Applauds Net Neutrality Rules, to a Point

Article excerpt

The Federal Communications Commission approved regulations in December that preserve open access to the Internet and a free flow of information, scoring a victory for many in the higher education community.

In a 3-2 party line vote, the Democrat-controlled FCC restricted wired Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from blocking or inhibiting consumers' access to content from rival companies.

Education officials and others nationwide have been pushing for the so-called "network neutrality" rules.

"If the Internet is a highway, net neutrality simply means that everyone is able to access the highway at the same speed at the same time. There are no on-ramps that are only for some people and not for others," says Dr. Charles N. Davis, a media law expert in the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and the facilitator of the university's Media of the Future Initiative. "It's terrifying that we are talking about making the Internet anything other than open and public."

Under the new regulations, Internet service providers must offer access to all lawful sites and may not exercise "unreasonable discrimination" in pricing or service offerings.

Moreover, all providers must disclose steps taken to manage their networks.

Although unimpeded access to all websites across broadband networks is important to all of higher education, it is even more vital for the distance learner, says Steven Worona, director of policy and networking programs, for EDUCAUSE, a non-profit organization committed to advancing higher education through information technology.

Campuses can provide electronic content to every student in a class without regard of where those students are located or how they access the Internet.

"In a neutral Internet environment, everyone in the world who has Internet access can get to that content," Worona says. "In a non-neutral Net, you run into the possibility where one student's network provider is refusing to allow access."

In a March 2010 letter to the FCC, a coalition of higher education associations--including EDUCAUSE, the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities--asserted that research, collaboration, distance education, job training and placement, catalog sharing, access to government data and services depend on open and unfettered access to the Internet. …

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