On Friday, the FCC announced it would extend the public comment period on its proposal to roll back a 2015 order protecting net neutrality for an additional two weeks. This phase of the process is supposed to allow for “replies” to arguments raised by other commenters.
With close to 20 million comments in the public record so far, any additional time is useful. It’s worth noting, however, that many advocates have called for the FCC to release the consumer complaints received since the 2015 Open Internet Order went into effect and all documents related to the ombudsperson’s interactions with internet users. The comment extension, while welcome, does not address the fact the FCC has yet to make public more than 40,000 net neutrality complaints that could provide direct and relevant evidence in response to numerous questions that the FCC poses in this proceeding.
The extra time means more opportunities for the library community to engage. Even if you have already submitted comments, you can do so again “on reply” Here are a few easy strategies:
- Submit a comment amplifying the library and higher education principles for an open internet.
- You can cite to specific examples or arguments in the initial comments submitted by ALA and allies earlier in the proceeding.
- Thousands of librarians and library staff from across the country have filed comments on their own or via the ALA’s action alert. Members of the library community called on the FCC to keep the current net neutrality rules and shared their worries that the internet with “slow lanes” would hurt libraries and the communities they serve. The comments below offer a few examples and may help with your comments:
- The New Jersey Library Association submits: “Abandoning net neutrality in favor of an unregulated environment where some content is prioritized over other content removes opportunities for entrepreneurs, students and citizens to learn, grow and participate in their government. It will further enhance the digital divide and severely inhibit the ability of our nation’s libraries to serve those on both sides of that divide.”
- “If net neutrality is to be abolished, then our critical online services could be restricted to ‘slow lanes’ unless we pay a premium,” wrote John, a public library employee in Georgia. “These include our job and career gateway, language learning software, grant finding, medical information, ebooks, and test preparation guides, such as for the GED and ASVAB. Ending net neutrality would hurt the people who need equal access the most. These people use our career gateway to find jobs, our grant finder to support their businesses and nonprofits, and use our test aids to earn their GED or get into the military. If we were forced to pay a premium to access these resources, it will limit our ability to fund our other programs and services.”
- Catherine, a reference librarian at a major university in Oregon writes, “I [have] learned that imaginative online searching is an invaluable research tool for personal, professional, and scholarly interests. Yes, going online can be fun, but the internet must not be considered a plaything. Access must not be restricted or limited by corporate packaging.”
- Hampton, a chief executive officer of a public library system in Maryland, wrote about all the functions and services of the modern library dependent on reliable, unfettered internet access: “In our library, we offer downloadable eBooks, eMagazines, and eAudiobooks as well as numerous databases providing courses through Lynda.com, language learning through Rosetta Stone, 365-days-a-year tutoring for kindergarten through adult with BrainFuse, and many more resources online. We have public computers with internet access as well as free WiFi in our fifteen libraries extending Internet access to thousands of customers who bring their tablets and smartphones to the library. We work with customers to help them in the health care marketplace, with applications for Social Security and jobs, and every conceivable use of the internet. Obviously, being relegated to lower priority internet access would leave our customers in a very difficult position.”
- Others wrote with concerns about the need for access to information for democracy to thrive, like Carrie, an information professional from Michigan: “The internet is not merely a tool for media consumption, but is also a means of free expression, a resource for education, and most importantly, an implement of democracy. I will not mince words: Allowing corporations to manipulate the flow of information on the internet is not the way forward. An end to net neutrality would hurt businesses large and small, inhibit the free flow of speech online, and allow telecommunications corporations to unjustly interfere with market forces.”