Today, Vermont State Librarian Martha Reid voiced(pdf) the concerns of our nation’s libraries about the importance of an open Internet at a U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary field hearing. Led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in support of network neutrality, the hearing “Preserving an Open Internet: Rules to Promote Competition and Protect Main Street Consumers” took place in Burlington, Vt.
Vermont is one of many states where public libraries are often the only place in town to offer free Internet access and they are the go-to places for job seekers, independent learners, researchers and local entrepreneurs.
Speaking before an audience that included many from the Vermont library community, Reid said, “We are united in our belief that an Open Internet is essential to our nation’s freedom of speech, educational achievement, economic vitality, and equal access to information. An Open Internet is fundamental for libraries to fulfill their mission to provide students, teachers and faculty and the general public equal access to information and to the wide variety of resources and opportunities made available via the Internet.”
National studies show that citizens often choose to use public library Internet and Wi-Fi — even if they have it at home. During the hearing, Reid used an example from Readsboro, Vt., a small town where a local entrepreneur with a home-based business started to work at the public library because the library internet fiber connection is fast and efficient. Videoconferencing, distance learning, job searches, resume and career development. In the past year, 14 Vermont public libraries have launched no-fee community videoconferencing services.
American Library Association (ALA) Immediate Past President Barbara Stripling echoed Reid’s testimony in a press statement, noting that the preservation of the free flow of information is critical to an informed society. “ALA agrees with my colleague, Martha Reid, when she says it is ’the right of citizens to have access to information, including that which may be controversial, is a hallmark of our democracy and of libraries. Currently, the Internet is freely and equitably accessible to all. And it needs to stay that way.’”
Just days before the Senate hearing, leadership at the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas passed an organizational resolution supporting network neutrality.