ALA tells FCC: the library community needs you to protect net neutrality

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by Ellen Satterwhite, courtesy of District Dispatch

This past week, the American Library Association (ALA) told federal regulators that rolling back strong, enforceable net neutrality rules that keep the internet open would hurt libraries and the communities they serve. In comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ALA reiterated the fact that 120,000 libraries depend on the open internet to carry out their missions and ensure the protection of freedom of speech, educational achievement and economic growth.

This comment deadline was another stop in a longer fight. In 2015, the Obama FCC adopted strong net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking, censoring or discriminating against any online content. The rules were subsequently upheld by a federal court. In May 2017, the new Chairman of the FCC announced a plan to do away with the rules, a move which greatly concerns us, along with thousands of businesses and startups, consumer advocacy organizations and millions of consumers. We filed initial comments and had the opportunity to respond to arguments raised by other commenters and raise additional issues.

ALA has been on the front lines of the net neutrality battle with the FCC, Congress and the federal courts for more than a decade, working in coalition with other library and higher education organizations as well as broader coalitions of net neutrality advocates. In addition to ALA’s comments, thousands of librarians and library staff from across the country filed comments on their own or via the ALA’s Action Alert as part of a coordinated “Internet Day of Action” on July 12. In fact, more than 1,640 alerts had been sent through the action center as of the morning of July 13, and there were more than 140,000 impressions via Twitter and nearly 85,000 via Facebook for ALA and I Love Libraries social channels.

The comments filed relied on the voices and stories from individual library professionals, libraries, systems and state library agencies and associations to tell regulators just how damaging efforts to roll back net neutrality could be.

So, what’s next? The FCC will proceed to draft a formal rule and vote on those rules, likely this fall. It is highly probable that some members of Congress will seek to broker a legislative solution. For ALA’s part, we will continue to advocate for strong, enforceable net neutrality protections and educate policymakers about the concerns of libraries and other institutions. We thank the ALA community for their engagement and will continue to keep you updated about opportunities to take action to support net neutrality.

About Ellen Satterwhite:

Ellen Satterwhite an ALA Office for Information Technology 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.