Internet neutrality

Today, I joined a national campaign to maintain internet neutrality, a critical rule that ensures that the internet remains open and accessible to everyone without regard to income. If it becomes possible for internet providers (ISPs) to charge differently for different kinds of services, then the real possibility exists that the IsisCB and sites like it will have a hard time competing with big businesses with a lot of cash at their disposal.

The internet has been an extraordinary resource for the distribution of knowledge across the globe, and that accomplishment was made possible in large part by the fact that providers do not discriminate among producers. It has given us a wonderfully democratic space that allows for the kind of educational and research work that I have been engaged in since I began working with the Isis Bibliography years ago.

My agenda to open up the information that we historians of science produce, our collective scholarship, is threatened by assaults on net neutrality.

Those of you who have visited the service today, will have seen the splash screen that appears briefly asking you to support net neutrality. Because this issue so directly affects the goals of this project, I have joined the movement to prevent the degradation of this crucial means of global open access communication.

Below I copy part of a letter that I sent to the FCC and other politicians regarding this issue.

I am extremely concerned about the potential to undo regulations that would jeopardize the neutrality of the internet, specifically rejecting the FCC’s Open Internet Rules. I urge you to protect them.

As a scholar it has taken me over a decade as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma to implement a website that delivers scholarly information through an open access database to researchers globally. The University and the State of Oklahoma should be proud to have been supportive of this project.

Until 2015, the only way that researchers could get the bibliographical information I provide about resources in history worldwide was through an institutional subscription service. This put it out of the reach of anyone who was unconnected to a college or university.

Internet neutrality enabled me to democratize this information, providing knowledge to the public and fostering learning both in and outside of the academy. The Federal government must support, not hinder, the accessibility of knowledge.

It would be a great threat to the open exchange of knowledge if ISPs had the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, or split the Internet into “fast lanes” for companies that pay and “slow lanes” for the rest.