Game on (redux) for network neutrality

Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to open a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on ensuring the Open Internet. This marks (another) beginning in our work to advocate for enforceable rules that protect equitable access to online information. The American Library Association will actively engage–with our members, with our library allies, with the FCC and with Congress, if needed–in this vital proceeding.

In fact, the ALA was one of the first to file when the FCC opened the docket in February. The ALA, Association of Research Libraries and EDUCAUSE followed up on Monday with key FCC staff. Our group shared the perspective of education, research and learning organizations and examples of what’s at stake for our community and our users.  Beyond the most basic challenges to equitable access to information and intellectual freedom, higher education and libraries are generators and subscribers of critical educational and cultural content that could suffer under a two-tier or “fast-lane” approach to network neutrality.

Among the specific examples we shared are how:

  • Public libraries are increasing their Internet speeds (often through the E-rate program, another issue before the FCC) to provide better access to millions of Americans, which could be threatened if commercial and entertainment content is pushed to the forefront while educational resources lag;
  • All types of libraries are digitizing and sharing unique collections, including the 9/11 Oral History Project;
  • Entrepreneurs and other creators are using public libraries as co-working and innovation spaces to upload their own digital content and products;
  • Libraries could be forced to pay more for streaming services if these content providers are paying for enhanced transmission;
  • Projects like the nanoHUB uses cyberinfrastructure to provide access to scientific tools for research, demonstration.

This is only one stop, though, along a long and almost certainly rocky path to seeking enforceable rules that will protect the Open Internet and withstand legal scrutiny. There are things you can do to engage in this proceeding and further strengthen the ALA’s and our allies’ advocacy.

Email to the ALA Washington Office (lclark@alawash.org) examples of Internet Service Provider (ISP) slowdowns, lost quality of service relative to your subscribed ISP speeds, and any other harm related to serving your community needs. Many in the telecom industry are arguing network neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. Anything we can do to rebut this will strengthen our case and the FCC’s record on this issue.

Stay tuned. ALA will analyze the Notice as soon as it is available and actively engage with member leaders in the Committee on Legislation and the OITP Advisory Committee to develop strategies and positions to advance our case. The ALA Washington Office will share information as we learn it via the District Dispatch and update the ALA Network Neutrality page.

Join the conversation. Gigi Sohn, FCC Senior Counsel for External Affairs for FCC Chairman Wheeler, will speak at the ALA Annual Conference Saturday morning, June 28 at 10:30 am in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N259-261.

About Larra Clark

As Deputy Director of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), Larra’s responsibilities include overall management of OITP’s telecommunications portfolio and day-to-day management of America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) projects and those in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she served as the project manager in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics for three years.

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