This is Very Bad News. An open internet is vital to scholarship, education, and free exchange of ideas. Access to science, to data, to open resources, to diverse voices, to new services and platforms, and on and on—it all routes through your broadband provider. I have been following this issue for years, and I’ve long known about the digital divide and the uncompetitive hellscape that is broadband provision in this country, but it really hit home when I moved to Charlottesville. Many of my colleagues, coworkers, friends, and the students, staff, and community around this university live in places served by only one provider of true broadband internet. In fact, many colleagues live in places with no real access to reliable high-speed internet access.
That total lack of competition leaves all of us at the mercies of the companies who serve our neighborhoods. If I don’t like their service, or the terms on which they provide it, there is literally nowhere else to turn. When we all depend on this portal for access to information, education, government services, and on and on, it is deeply irresponsible to leave those carriers completely free of any responsibility to provide unbiased service.
As former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, in response to this announcement, “If you like your cable company, you’re going to love these new rules.”
For more information about how net neutrality effects science, check out PLOS’s statement on the issue. Free Press is a non-profit organization that has been at the forefront of this issue, and they have a useful landing page about today’s change. If this has you rattled, they have some useful suggestions for ways to take action.
N.B. This post marks a slight change in format for the Taper blog: I’m hoping to blog more frequently with short posts like this one, linking to news developments and providing a little context for readers in the UVA and copyrlght/scholcomm/info-policy world. Thanks to Doug Chestnut at UVA for setting up the bookmarklet functionality for this Jekyll-powered blog, and to Panayotis Vryonis for developing the underlying tool.