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Higher Ed/Library Views Impact Final Net Neutrality Order
The FCC recently posted the full text of the network neutrality order it passed in late February. (Please see “FCC Votes to Restore Strong Net Neutrality Protections.”) An outline released after the vote highlighted the “no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization” rules that the order would impose. While those align with the views of the higher education/libraries coalition in which EDUCAUSE serves as a core member, the coalition looked forward to seeing if the order would address the other concerns it raised. And the order does.
FCC Votes to Restore Strong Net Neutrality Protections
(UPDATE, 03/19/15: Please see "Higher Ed/Library Views Impact Final Net Neutrality Order" for information on how higher education/library concerns mentioned below are addressed in the full text of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order, which was released roughly two weeks after this post.)
As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new Open Internet Order last week on a 3-2 vote, with all Democratic Commissioners voting in favor and both Republicans opposed. The Order establishes network neutrality rules that will keep the major retail broadband providers from pursuing practices that would seriously disadvantage higher education online. The major providers, however, will work to overturn the FCC’s action in Congress and the courts.
U.S. Dept. of Ed. Links State Authorization and Gainful Employment Regs.
Russ Poulin, Deputy Director of Research and Analysis at WCET, has posted an initial update on the U.S. Department of Education's new gainful employment regulations and the suprising link they include to the department's regulatory efforts on state authorization (http://wcetblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/gainful-employment/). The department has not yet issued new regulations for distance education state authorization, so the state authorization requirements applied to gainful employment programs would not yet impact distance learning programs. However, the gainful employment document released by the department includes a reference to a future connection with as-yet-to-be-issued distance education state authorization requirements, which Russ highlights at the conclusion of his post.
Higher Ed Raises Concerns, Works with Proponents of the TEACH Act
In September, EDUCAUSE and a number of other higher education associations released an analysis of the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. The proposed legislation, not to be confused with the already established TEACH Act on copyright issues (see the 2009 ECAR Research Bulletin on the topic for more information), is intended to improve the accessibility of “electronic instructional materials and related technologies” for persons with disabilities.
EDUCAUSE Advances Net Neutrality Principles, Positions
Summary: Earlier this year, the FCC launched a new net neutrality rule-making process to restore protections lost when its previous rules were overturned. EDUCAUSE joined with several higher education and library organizations to propose principles on which the FCC should base its new rules, as well as to submit comments indicating the shape the rules might take given the principles. The FCC will accept responses to initial public comments through September 10; EDUCAUSE and its partners will work during this period to generate responses supporting our principles and positions.
DMCA Multi-Stakeholder Process Focuses on Standardized Notice
Summary: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have chartered a multi-stakeholder process to pursue voluntary improvements in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice-and-takedown procedures. The initial project to emerge focuses on collaborative development of a voluntary, standardized takedown notice. Staff analysis informed by member feedback indicates that EDUCAUSE should continue to monitor the process, but that direct participation is not warranted at this time since the process does not yet entail concerns specific to our community.
EDUCAUSE Policy in 2014
Last October, EDUCAUSE posted an update on the evolution of our policy work. Now that we are well into 2014, we wanted to provide members and other stakeholders with information on our progress.
Since the previous update, EDUCAUSE has secured consulting services in public policy and government relations to help us address a diverse array of federal issues, including the following:
ED OIG Drops Tech Fixes for Identity Verification in Latest Report
Summary: In its latest report on financial aid fraud in distance education, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) dropped previously proposed technology-based measures for student identity verification that EDUCAUSE considered problematic. The OIG now recommends enhanced admissions documentation to address identity verification concerns, which seems much more manageable within existing institutional systems and processes. However, the OIG continues to advocate for changes in the financial aid need calculation for distance learners as well as maintenance of a standard for determining the last date of attendance for the return of federal student aid funds that could damage online distance education.
NIH Notice: Network Restriction on Pornography
Summary: NIH released a notice alerting award recipients of a new restriction on the use of funds “to maintain or establish computer network” unless that network blocks access to pornography. NIH interprets the provision as applying only to funds awarded directly for such purposes; overhead funds are not involved. That essentially restricts NIH’s application of the provision to project-based networks, removing the concern that any institution receiving NIH funds might have to implement blocking or filtering across its campus network. Researchers with potentially impacted projects should consider discussing their concerns with their NIH grants and contracts officer.