Education Groups Urge Net Neutrality Action

A group of U.S. education organizations is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to reestablish “net neutrality” rules in order to preserve principles underlying what advocates have termed the “open internet.”

Over the objections of many internet service providers, the FCC established net neutrality rules in 2015 under the Obama administration. Those rules were rolled back in 2017 under the Trump administration.

At the core of the net neutrality concept is classifying internet service as a utility – similar to water and power systems. That classification gives the government further opportunities to impose regulations on service providers, including principles of nondiscrimination when it comes to serving consumers and online service provider customers.

“Students, institutions of higher education, and libraries have a stake in the Internet, and it is imperative that the Internet remains open and free,” the education groups said in an open letter to the FCC.

The FCC – which has regained a majority Democratic leadership roster after a long confirmation process – appears to be moving toward reinstating net neutrality rules.

In September 2023, the FCC issued a draft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) featuring a series of proposed rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority over broadband internet. Since then, the FCC has voted to advance the proposal and will review public comments prior to taking a final vote on the matter later this year.

“We are pleased that the NPRM was adopted and given the approval to move forward in the regulatory process by the Federal Communications Commission,” the education groups said in their Dec. 14 letter. “We offer our strong support for a free and open Internet and for this NPRM.”

“We proudly support that the FCC is moving forward to restore net neutrality and ensure an open and free Internet,” the letter from the education groups reads. “It is vitally important that the Internet is able to continue to evolve and thrive without the unnecessary distortions that are likely to emerge in the absence of strong net neutrality protections.”

Organizations that have signed the letter and are endorsing the net neutrality push include ACE, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, EDUCAUSE, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Association of American Universities.