February 24, 2014, vol.43, no.8, pp.4-5
The following is quoted directly from this week's Library Hotline:
If Net Neutrality Goes, What Impact on Service to Kids?
Like most people, I’d never hear of the term [net neutrality] before a few weeks ago,” American Association of School Libraries president Gail Dickinson told Hotline. “It’s a protection we enjoyed.”
Without net neutrality, also known as the open Internet, kids’ access to online resources could be negatively impacted, with commercial sites and services eclipsing other content online, Dickinson and others said.
Uninitiated librarians gained a better understanding of net neutrality last month, after a court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not have the authority to impose net neutrality rules on Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, opening the door to an Internet where companies could pay ISPs for faster broadband delivery of their content, as reported in Library Journal [see January 14th article and Rebecca T. Miller’s February 19th editorial] and elsewhere.Defenders of net neutrality, including librarians, fear that this decision will privilege material from organizations that can afford to pay ISPs and also thwart innovation.“We don’t want Disney over library services,” said Lynne Bradley, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Government Relations. “We don’t want entertainment to be coming up first.”Without the principles of net neutrality in place, “Kids will get different access depending on what school district they’re in,” said Frances Jacobsen Harris, librarian at University Laboratory High School in Urbana, IL, and the author of I Found It on the Internet: Coming of Age Online (ALA Editions, 2011). “It will hurt kids in the have-not districts.”Rather than looking ahead to what she thinks would only be “Band-Aid” solutions, Jacobsen Harris supports those who insist that the FCC must act to redefine the Internet as a common carrier or public utility in order to preserve equal content delivery. The common carrier term in U.S. communications law says that public networks like the telephone must be open to everyone at the same cost and without discrimination.“The FCC continues to treat ISPs as information providers rather than as telecommunications providers, which are subject to common carrier rules,” Jacobsen Harris told Hotline. “The only way the FCC is going to get around this is to go back and say the Internet is a public utility.”Dickinson said that “another parallel is the filtering law,” whereby the end result is unequal content delivery to students. “What we’re really doing here is taking a backhoe and a bulldozer to the digital divide,” she told Hotline. “We’re making it bigger and wider and deeper.”The Open Internet Preservation Act [H.R. 3982], introduced on February 3 by U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo (both D-CA), would “protect consumers and innovation online,” according to a press release on Representative Waxman’s site.The bill was announced the same day that the FCC pledged an additional $2 billion for high-speed Internet access for schools and libraries over the next two years and President Obama announced a $750 million private sector commitment to support tech in schools.