AAUP Supports Net Neutrality

On September 10, a number of major websites and online services—including Netflix, Boing Boing, Kickstarter, and Vimeo (host to a variety of AAUP content)—purposefully displayed the "spinning wheel of death." Normally, such sites would never want their visitors to experience the load-time lag indicated by the cheerfully spinning rainbow wheel. The one-day "Internet Slowdown" campaign was designed to draw attention to the expected result of a future without net neutrality protections on the public Internet.

Until January of this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforced rules of public network neutrality over Internet access in the United States. "Net neutrality," essentially, is the idea that no one service can be prioritized over others on public networks: TimeWarner cannot provide Netflix to customers at faster speeds than they provide Hulu; Comcast could not sell to Amazon's Cloud Services faster delivery to end customers than a local library's website would have. This has been a tenet of the open Internet, and an almost unconscious assumption most of us operate on when we use the web—or launch a website—for business, research, pleasure, and day-to-day living.

Then, on January 14, in response to a suit brought by Verizon and other providers, the DC Circuit court determined that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules. Since then, the FCC has proposed new rules that would now allow the sale of "fast-lane" access over the public net. The public comment period on this proposed rulemaking ends on September 15, and with prompting from high-profile advocates such as Stephen Colbert, more than 4 million comments in favor of net neutrality have been submitted. Net neutrality supporters argue that ISPs need to be reclassified as telecommunications common carriers, so that the FCC would have the power to regulate them for open and equitable access.

One of the more substantive comments submitted in the process came from a group of eleven higher education and library organizations, including the AAU, ARL, and AAUP-member Modern Language Association. These organizations released a statement of joint Net Neutrality Principles (linked below) on July 10, outlining their belief that the protections of net neutrality—including the prohibition of paid prioritization, the prevention of degradation, and a requirement of transparency—are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth.

AAUP has issued a statement in support of these Net Neutrality Principles (also linked below). Our members' mission of disseminating scholarship widely often relies on the Internet as an open, neutral public network to access the online content and services of libraries, institutions of higher learning, and publishers small and large. An Internet without net neutrality threatens that mission, and we join with our colleagues at universities, scholarly societies, and libraries in standing for principles of public network neutrality.

Read the full Net Neutrality Principles icon.pdf

Read AAUP's July 30 statement


Brenna McLaughlin
Director of Marketing & Communications, AAUP