On July 12, 2017, the American Library Association (ALA) and nearly 200 other organizations participated in Day of Action, a protest to save Net Neutrality. What is Net Neutrality? It is “ [the] principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination” (Merriam-Webster). Prohibiting discrimination or preferential treatment by Internet service providers (ISPs) maintains a free and open Internet for all users.
Net Neutrality has been a contentious issue both for Internet users wanting an open Internet and Internet service providers trying to institute “tiered service.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)) tried over the years to institute rules to protect the principle of Net Neutrality but faced court challenges (FCC, Adopts). Finally, in February 2015, the FCC issued the Open Internet Order, which created rules to protect Network Neutrality and defined broadband Internet access service as “a telecommunication service” to be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act (Joyce).
What’s Happening Now?
The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order did not end the debate. Prior to being designated as FCC chairman by President Donald Trump, Ajit Pai was critical of the 2015 Open Internet Order and is now in a position to make changes and reverse Net Neutrality protections. Many organizations including ALA sent comments to the FCC supporting retention of Net Neutrality. A press release from ALA emphasized that “our nation’s 120,000 libraries—and their patrons—depend on fair access to broadband networks for basic services they provide in communities like connecting people to unbiased research, job searches, e-government services, health information and economic opportunity” (ALA, ALA Argues).
As a school librarian you are committed to access to information in any format for your students. In many schools, librarians and other educators already struggle to overcome overly restrictive filtering so that students, especially those without the Internet access at home, can find resources for assignments and personal information needs. Having an open and accessible Internet is important for all types of libraries, and the future of Net Neutrality now hangs in the balance. If it is undone, Internet service to schools and school libraries will be affected. Schools and libraries’ Internet access could be relegated “to the Internet’s ‘slow lanes'” (ALA, Net Neutrality).
What Can You Do?
Become knowledgeable about Net Neutrality to protect online access to information in schools and libraries. Additionally take these actions:
- Educate your colleagues, students, administration, school board, and parents about Net Neutrality.
- Register to receive the ALA Washington Office Dispatch, a weekly e-newsletter with information on key library and education federal legislation and updates on Net Neutrality. You need not be an ALA member to subscribe.
- Subscribe to the Intellectual Freedom News, a free weekly compilation of articles on a range of intellectual freedom issues include Net Neutrality.
- Contact your senators and representatives about the importance of Net Neutrality to your school and community.
ALA. “ALA Argues to Retain 2015 Open Internet Protections with FCC Comments.” July 17, 2017. http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2017/07/ala-argues-retain-2015-open-internet-protections-fcc-comments/ (accessed July 19, 2017).
ALA. “Net Neutrality. Why Does Net Neutrality Matter to Libraries?” http://www.ala.org/advocacy/telecom/netneutrality/ (accessed July 21, 2017.
FCC. “FCC Adopts Strong, Sustainable Rules to Protect the Open Internet.” http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0226/DOC-332260A1.pdf (accessed July 19, 2017).
Joyce, Stephanie A. “Summary of FCC Open Internet Order.” March 13, 2015. Deadlines and Headlines. http://deadlinesandheadlines.com/articles/summary-fcc-open-internet-order/ (accessed July 19, 2017).
Merriam-Webster. “Net Neutrality.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/net%20neutrality (accessed July 17, 2017).
Disty. “July 12th Day of Action: SAVE NET NEUTRALITY.” Uploaded July 17, 2017. Public Domain. https://www.flickr.com/photos/46117735@N08/35867767345/sizes/l.
Moore, Brian Lane Winfield. “WWIII Propaganda: Support Net Neutrality.” June 25, 2009. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/doctabu/3659665238/sizes/l.
Author: Helen Adams
A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.