requirements under the Communications Act of 19962 that continue to apply to
operators of phone lines. One such requirement is that all such traffic must pass
over the telecommunications lines impartially and without interference of
network operators. Today, however, most Internet access is received via cable,
DSL, and wireless technologies—broadband Internet access that is not over
telecommunications lines—and providers of broadband access are not subject
to the same “common carrier” rules as telecommunications service providers.
Thus, federal law no longer guarantees the preservation of a free and open
Internet the way it did when Internet access was delivered via
telecommunications lines.
A second reason why net neutrality is no longer protected in the broadband
Internet market stems from developments in network management technology.
During the advent of the Internet, network operators were unable to distinguish
details in the content that end users transmitted over networks. Now, through
the development of “deep packet inspection” technologies, ISPs can look at the
source of Internet content and inspect and shape each packet of information sent
over their network. With this technology, ISPs “suddenly know a whole lot
more about their users and their traffic. They also gain the ability to block,
shape, monitor, and prioritize that traffic—in any direction.”3
This technology,
combined with the fact that more network providers offer cable TV and phone
service in addition to Internet access, means that ISPs can and have an incentive
to slow or “throttle” Internet content that competes with their own services.4
A View from Washington: Agency
and Congressional Efforts to Maintain
Network Neutrality
In 2005, after recognizing the growing threat to the Internet’s open architecture,
the FCC developed the Internet Policy Statement5 that lists four principles of an
open Internet. These principles are often summarized as (1) any lawful content,
(2) any lawful application, (3) any lawful device, and (4) any provider. However,
the FCC did not write the 2005 Internet Policy Statement into regulation at the
time of creation. As such, in 2009, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued
a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking to codify the four open
Internet principles as well as two additional principles of (1) transparency
and (2) non-discrimination—the lynchpins of net neutrality.6
Unfortunately, the FCC suffered a huge setback in this rulemaking process in
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The Importance of Net Neutrality to Research Libraries in the Digital Age
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C O N T I N U E D
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DECEMBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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