traffic that they believe competes with their own services and content. Thus, the
net neutrality debate centers on whether it is time to enact legal principles to
protect the open Internet. While network operators assert that there is no need
to enact such regulation or law, the evidence indicates that the threats against
maintaining a free and open Internet continue to grow.
Ensuring a free and open Internet is critical to research libraries and the
patrons they serve because the ability to access,
produce, and distribute content and services over
the Internet is central to the mission of libraries.
The preservation of a free and open Internet will be
essential for libraries to achieve their goal of offering
innovative services and providing their patrons with
effective access to information over the Internet in
support of research, teaching, and learning. ARL, in partnership with the
American Library Association, EDUCAUSE, and the Open Internet Coalition,
has been actively supportive of net neutrality by filing numerous comments
with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), attending meetings
with FCC staff, and tracking congressional action on this issue.
Network Neutrality: A Principle
to Preserve the Free and Open Internet
A simple way to understand the importance of net neutrality is to consider how
the communications providers might function in its absence. One need not look
far but only to another communications market: cable television. In the cable
television market, network providers determine which content is aired, how
much to charge consumers for channel options, and the cost of providing a
show on their network. The ability of Internet service providers (ISPs) to serve
as similar “gatekeepers” of the open Internet—determining when and at what
price content is shared over the Internet—will threaten the unique benefit that the
Internet provides: a free and accessible platform for all to speak and contribute.
Net neutrality was a founding principle of the Internet’s original
architecture. Under the initial business model of the Internet, network owners
charged consumers for Internet access but could not discriminate based on the
type of content or service transmitted by end users. Thus, it is said that
innovation occurs at the edges of the Internet by end users. This open structure
also promotes consumer choice. For example, the creators of Skype, Google, and
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The Importance of Net Neutrality to Research Libraries in the Digital Age
(
C O N T I N U E D
)
DECEMBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Ensuring a free and open Internet is critical to
research libraries and the patrons they serve
because the ability to access, produce, and
distribute content and services over the
Internet is central to the mission of libraries.
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