Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling upon the FCC to carefully consider the possible effects of regulating the Internet. ALA implores the FCC to ensure that producers and consumers of information are able to access and provide services on the Internet free from discriminatory practices, to ensure network neutrality.
DOJ argues that any regulation could, among other things, “skew investment” and “delay innovation” of the Internet. On the contrary, ALA believes the enforcement of net neutrality does not hinder investment into the Internet. Thus far, the open and accessible nature of net neutrality has prevented Internet Service Provider (ISP) gatekeepers from blocking or discriminating against smaller, less popular or less lucrative service or content providers. ALA asks for this neutrality to be maintained.
Further, ALA is not opposed to ISPs offering traditional tiered pricing, when the pricing for bandwidth is determined by speeds available to a given consumer and/or the amount of bandwidth consumed. What ALA opposes is any blocking or relegation of Internet traffic.
Libraries are vital access points to information. As we stated in our own comments to the FCC (PDF), ALA believes that an open network, free from discrimination, is essential to giving the public access to any lawful content within the library. Access to this information creates an informed public that is better equipped to participate in the digital age. The FCC should work to ensure that the principles adopted in the September 2005 Policy Statement (PDF) are adhered to by broadband providers while providing service to all consumers. ALA shared these comments, along with others, when we filed comments to the FCC during their Notice of Inquiry into broadband industry practices.
ALA further disagrees with the DOJ’s position that consumers will be harmed by enforced net neutrality due to the fact that the costs of network buildout will be passed onto consumers. Not so. Consumers will not be harmed by enforcement of net neutrality. On a neutral network they will flourish in their ability to access the content they want, without being relegated to a “slow lane.”
Laws that maintain net neutrality are the best way to preserve a vibrant diversity of viewpoints into the foreseeable future. The vitality of voices on the Internet is critical to the intellectual freedom that libraries around the world are trying to protect and promote.