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Not quite the end of net neutrality

Today (June 11) is the day the repeal of net neutrality rules goes into effect. The good news is, consumers and patrons are unlikely to see changes to the internet service they buy today. The bad news is, there’s now no “cop on the beat,” no enforceable protections that are essential to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to online information for all.

If Internet Service Providers are allowed to control or manipulate the content of internet communications — to block, throttle and prevent you from accessing the internet any way you want — then the work of modern libraries becomes that much harder. But there are opportunities for relief.

First, last month, the Senate voted 52-47 to pass bipartisan legislation under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the FCC’s 2017 rule rollback. As we said at the time: we were pleased to see support from both sides of the aisle to keep the internet free and open. Now, the action has moved to the House. Representatives have the opportunity to put enforceable net neutrality protections in place, by signing the CRA discharge petition and voting to block the FCC’s net neutrality repeal.

Around the country, folks have been showing up to in person events with their House representatives to make their feelings on net neutrality known. My personal favorite story is that of Mr. Dave Mantz, the only attendee at Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI)’s meeting in Rubicon, WI. What did Mr. Mantz want to talk about? Net neutrality.

Second, states and localities continue to push their own net neutrality rules, hoping to fill the gap left by the FCC’s repeal. At last count, 29 states are considering net neutrality legislation. Two states, Oregon and Washington, have passed laws, and five governors have signed executive orders that would keep the state from doing business with ISPs that violate net neutrality principles. The California Senate has passed a bill from state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that would restore all of the protections from the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order and even go a step further by banning most forms of “zero rating,” which is a business arrangement where a mobile ISP would not charge customers data rates to use certain preferred apps or services. The bill will now go to the full state Assembly.

Third, the court challenges continue. On March 28, 2018, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted an unopposed motion filed by the petitioners–which include public interest groups and the trade association representing major technology companies–to transfer consolidated appeals of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order to the D.C. Circuit.

The D.C. Circuit court has principal jurisdiction over FCC decisions and has heard the two previous appeals of FCC net neutrality actions; of the 2011 Open Internet Order, which it overturned, and the 2015 Open Internet Order, which it upheld. The ALA plans to file as an amicus, or friend of the court, as we did in previous legal cases.

You can help by:

  1. Continuing to tell your members of Congress (or thanking them!) that net neutrality is critical to the modern library and our communities through our action alert.
  2. If your plans and means allow, joining a #DayofAction for net neutrality allies in Washington, D.C. on June 26 sponsored by our allies. Here is a link to register.
  3. Initiating or joining in-district events when your members of Congress are home for recess. Invite them to a library, talk about what an open internet means for your patrons and community–be like Dave Mantz!
  4. Tell your ISP (and your local media and your patrons) that you are watching and expect them to respect their commitments to an open internet. In fact, you’d like them to put it in writing.
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Ellen Satterwhite

Ellen Satterwhite a Washington Office Policy Fellow and Vice President of the Glen Echo Group. She has years of experience at the intersection of technology and policy, including as a co-author of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and as Consumer Policy Advisor to the Commission. Satterwhite earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

4 Comments

  1. Our Indivisible chapters in Westchester County, NY, have asked for new law, on the public-library model for personal information: carriers must not copy it in the first place, so it it cannot be sold or mishandled. Lawmakers can appreciate the library’s thinking: users don’t have a 1st or 4th amendment when somebody, or somebody’s computer, is looking over their shoulder.

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