Connecting People and Strategies

WiscNet and Net Neutrality


Today is an interesting day in our Internet world. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to roll back provisions that prevent Internet Service Providers from blocking or slowing particular parts of the Internet in favor of others. This is the concept known as "net neutrality."

We've received questions from WiscNet members about what all this means for WiscNet. In order to understand where we are at today, it helps to revisit the WiscNet of the late 1980s. WiscNet, together with others in what's called the "research and education" community, built an Internet in which the principle of a free and open network was paramount. Without it, we could not have created a network community of equals, across different disciplines, among the private and public sector, worldwide.

Today’s vote by the FCC goes against this fundamental principle and will change how networking works. WiscNet’s primary focus is to make sure that we, together with the research and education community, participate in a global Internet with unrestricted capacity for all innovators. WiscNet has always been, and remains committed to, supporting the missions of our member organizations. We will continue working to support the efforts of the research and education networking community to ensure that open access delivery models remain available to all. Essential to our members are the concept of transparency and control. As nonprofits, research and education networks, including WiscNet, are governed and managed by boards, advisories, and engineers who take great pride in setting policies that determine how services are delivered. We do not censor, we do not throttle, we do not sell our members' traffic data, and we do not block or discriminate against any legal applications or content traversing our network. Pretty simple strategies in a world of networking that is increasingly complex.

WiscNet is committed to making this Internet available to all users. We use a number of strategies to ensure the Internet performs well for our members and does not limit access to services and content they desire. We make direct "peering" connections with content providers where large amounts of traffic are exchanged. Additionally, content distribution networks operated by Akamai, Netflix, and many, many others are hosted directly on WiscNet to improve performance and access. It is this comprehensive, cost-conscious approach to maintaining great networking performance, reliability, and access that makes research and education networks, including WiscNet, unique.

"What can we as WiscNet members do?" Take time to thoroughly digest what I laid out above. Despite this being my job, even I'm still learning. I’m learning from our network engineers who are fired up today. I'm learning from our colleagues lobbying those at the federal level about why research and education networking is crucial. I'm learning from those that sat around the table nearly 30 years ago and determined that the free and open inter-connection of networks would be hugely important someday.

What have I learned? No matter how much you know about something like net neutrality, the Internet, or even WiscNet, there is an extra dimension of why that cannot be be boiled down and explained in simple bullet points. It’s wildly complicated and it’s why we are in this together as a community. We’ll continue to both teach and learn with the WiscNet community about why a free and open Internet is important to us.

John Pederson