The Internet Shouldn't Have a Slow Lane

Dec 27, 2017
Written by cmcguire

On Dec. 15, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to rescind net neutrality rules established in 2015 that ensured that internet users have equal access to all online information regardless of the source. The decision to repeal these rules may restrict access this information for internet users, including Library patrons.

In April 2017, Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association (ALA), wrote an editorial Net neutrality: America’s libraries stand for freedom and fairness,” featured in the publication The Hill. She explains this issue more eloquently than I can, so this week I am offering an excerpt from her article.

“From books to broadband, libraries have always existed to provide equitable opportunities for all. Few can doubt the internet’s central role as a driver for expanding civic and economic opportunity, from free speech to the free market. Equitable treatment on the communications channel for the 21st Century is near and dear to librarians and the publics we serve. The Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order provided clear, enforceable rules to ensure these opportunities are preserved for all.”

 “[Libraries are] a critical place for the public to access the internet. Local public libraries are often the only no-fee public internet access point in our communities. Libraries particularly serve the information needs of the most vulnerable segments of our population, including those in rural areas, unemployed and low-income consumers, older adults and people with disabilities.
This is the crucial mission of libraries: to transform communities through information. Network neutrality is essential to this mission.
Network neutrality is also an expression of our values. The [ALA] is a leading advocate for intellectual freedom—the “right of all peoples to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” People’s ability to freely inform themselves is critical to our democracy, and the internet is increasingly fundamental for that task. A world in which libraries and other noncommercial enterprises may be limited to the internet’s “slow lanes” while high-definition movies can obtain preferential treatment undermines a central priority for a democratic society.”
“…We [the ALA] support the principles of an open internet which preclude internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, prioritizing or degrading internet content and services; charging additional fees; or placing information in “fast” or “slow” lanes. Paid prioritization is inherently unfair and harmful to institutions that do not have the resources to pay additional fees.”
“People who come to the library because they cannot afford broadband access at home should not have their choices in accessing information shaped by those who can pay the most, rather than the quality of the content offered.”
“The ability of the internet to spread and share ideas…will only grow in our economy. We must work to ensure the strongest possible protections for equitable access to online information, applications and services for all….”
Read Todaro’s full article: