New ACLU Report Calls On FCC To Take Action To Protect Openness On The Internet
ACLU Says Preservation Of Network Neutrality Is A Key Free Speech Issue Of Our Time
WASHINGTON - Protecting
the Internet against content discrimination by broadband carriers is
crucial to protecting First Amendment rights in the age of modern
technology, the American Civil Liberties Union said today in a new
report on network neutrality. In the report, "Net Neutrality 101," the
ACLU urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create strong
policies that prevent Internet gatekeepers from exploiting their role
for private gain. The report characterizes the need for "net neutrality"
as a leading free speech issue of our time.
"In this day and age, the Internet is
the main way Americans exercise their free speech rights, and until
now, network neutrality principles have always been respected," said
Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
"Unfortunately, recent developments have opened the way for giant
telecoms to begin tinkering with the open structure of the Internet,
threatening its role as a forum for free speech. The FCC must take
action to preserve the Internet as a free and open forum for all."
Under net neutrality principles,
network owners would be barred from favoring some speech or speakers
while discriminating against others. But as today's report explains, a
recent court decision, combined with changing technology and business
practices, have given large broadband companies that provide users with
Internet access not only the incentive but also the means to interfere
with users' Internet data in order to further their own interests,
thereby interfering with users' free speech.
"There has been a lot of confusion
around network neutrality – some of it created intentionally – so in
this report we have tried to provide a clear guide to the issue and why
the FCC needs to act," said Jay Stanley, policy analyst with the ACLU
Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and primary author of the report.
"Many people don't realize that we may be entering a whole new stage in
the Internet's history, where the telecoms have much more power over
how people use the Internet. Keeping the hands of big telecom companies
off our Internet traffic is just as important as keeping the
government's hands off it."
In its report, the ACLU called on the
FCC to apply longstanding "common carrier" rules that would bar network
owners from halting, slowing or otherwise tampering with the transfer
of data to Internet users. Common carrier rules included by Congress in
the Telecommunications Act of 1996 already apply to most forms of
telecommunications but are not yet applied to broadband Internet
"We don't let the phone company
provide callers with inferior service when they disapprove of the person
being called or the content of the conversation – and we shouldn't
allow that kind of discrimination online either," said Stanley. "Common
carrier rules have been part of our legal tradition for centuries and
have long been applied to infrastructures crucial to the economic
development of our nation, from canals and railroads to the telegraph
and telephone. These rules have already been written into the law by
Congress; the FCC should apply them to broadband."
The full text of the ACLU's report is available online at: www.aclu.org/free-speech-technology-and-liberty/network-neutrality-101-why-government-must-act-preserve-free-and-
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.