Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source and without favoring or blocking specific services or websites. The American Library Association (ALA) has been on the front lines of the net neutrality battle with the FCC, Congress, and the federal courts for more than a decade, working in coalition with other library and higher education organizations as well as broader coalitions of net neutrality advocates.
Little has changed between what was published in an early proposal a month ago and what is being published today. The proposal, titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” asserts the FCC would like to remove the legal authority (Title II) used to implement net neutrality rules in 2015; it then asks what, if any, net neutrality rules should replace the ones that are being abandoned once their legal backing has been eliminated.
The proposal asks a lot of questions, including whether net neutrality rules are needed at all.
However, the FCC is obligated to review the comments it receives and to act in the public interest. The agency needs a robust public record that supports its decision, so the comments will be important.
The existing rules are crucial for public institutions like libraries. Now is the time to make your voice heard. The FCC will be accepting comments on its proposed rollback of these rules until July 17.
To leave a public comment on the FCC site:
- Go to the FCC’s page for filings related to the Restoring Internet Freedom proposal.
- Click on Express Comment in the middle of the page.
- In the Proceedings box, add 17-108 to associate your comment with the right proposal.
- Enter your name and address, and your comment. Note: This information will be publicly posted on the FCC’s website once it’s submitted and cannot be edited.
Tell the FCC why net neutrality matters to you as a librarian or information professional. The best stories are local, compelling, personal, relatively recent, and have details.
- What digital content do you offer your community that might be relegated to “slow lanes” or might bring higher costs to the library if your vendors are forced to pay for prioritized delivery? (This may include ebooks, streaming media, interactive homework assistance, online language learning, and digital special collections.)
- Do you offer no-fee Wi-Fi to patrons?
- Do patrons use the internet at your library to access online government programs and services? Would deprioritized access hurt them?
- Do patrons use the internet at your library to upload and share their own digital media, develop and support small businesses, use video conferencing, or collaborate online for school or research projects? What would slower service do to these activities?
The current net neutrality rules promote free speech and intellectual expression, and we need to ensure that a tiered version of the internet is not created in which libraries and other noncommercial enterprises are limited to the internet’s “slow lanes” while high-definition movies can obtain preferential treatment.
People who come to the library because they cannot afford broadband access at home should not have their choices in information shaped by who can pay the most. Library sites—key portals for those looking for unbiased knowledge—and library users could be among the first victims of slowdowns.
Librarians know that even subtle differences in internet transmission speeds can make a great difference in how a user receives, uses, and shares digital information.