would be increasingly likely to play out where such traffic competes with
the network operator’s own content and services—such as voice and video
services offered over broadband Internet access. The danger of discrimination
is compounded when network operators engage in such behavior without
transparently informing their costumers. Without both non-discrimination and
transparency requirements, libraries and their patrons might not even know of
the myriad content and services that they are unable to access.
3. Research Libraries Provide Content and
Services that Require Quick and Dependable
Transmission to End Users
In addition to their role as consumers of Internet resources, research libraries
are also prolific providers of content, services, and applications to the general
public. Research libraries create and maintain digital data collections, which
according to the National Science Foundation, “are at the heart [of]
fundamentally new approaches to research and education.”13 Additionally,
research libraries have developed mobile applications that allow wireless
device users to obtain access to library websites and their digital collections
from a mobile wireless platform. Finally, research libraries dedicate significant
time, money, and staff to provide access to electronic resources, which they
then make available to students, researchers, faculty, and oftentimes the public.
However, the effort spent in creating a digital library environment is
worthwhile only to the extent that patrons can access such resources for useful
purposes. Many off-campus users depend on a reliable and unfettered cable or
DSL Internet connection to access digital library collections. If providers
prioritize traffic based on which entities are willing to pay the most to deliver
content over the public Internet, research libraries and universities could be
harmed because they do not have the resources to compete with other
commercial entities. Such a system would not only harm libraries from an
economic and practical standpoint but would compromise research activities
and academic endeavors.
Conclusion: Net Neutrality as a
Means to a Library’s End Goal
The maintenance of a neutral network on the public Internet is critical to
research libraries because it will ensure an environment in which libraries,
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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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