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Net Neutrality and Science

The loss of net neutrality could have ramifications for science, Nature writes in an editorial.

In the US yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo rules that prohibit Internet providers from limiting access to certain websites or charging more for better access to sites, as the New York Times reports. Chairman Ajit Pai argued that eliminating the rules would allow broadband providers to offer a wider range of services. The Times notes that several states and companies are considering filing lawsuits against the action.

Changing these rules could affect the flow of scientific information, Nature says. If fast and slow lanes for information are implemented, it says, for instance, that data being transmitted from telescopes in South America to researchers in Europe could be relegated to the non-priority lane. Additionally, it says that students and universities in poorer regions could face unaffordable access fees.

"Science has made great strides in recent years to break open the walled gardens of many research fields and spread data and expertise around," Nature writes in its editorial. "The Internet — a scientific tool to begin with — has driven this revolution. As the implications of the US switch unfold, researchers and their representatives must prepare to protect this crucial progress."

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