Net Neutrality and Libraries

I had not planned on posting today, but yesterday an event took place that I felt I should cover here on Library Things. Yesterday morning, word began spreading about the “end of net neutrality”. In a landmark, and perhaps damning, decision a federal district court struck down ‘net neutrality’ or the nondiscrimination rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the case of Verizon v. FCC, the courts decided in favor of Verizon citing that the FCC does not currently have the authority to enact such rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals has sent the rules back to the FCC, who may attempt to rewrite or rework the rules.

I choose to share this with you because it is a troubling decision for people of all walks, including students, educators, librarians, businesses, almost everyone. The nondiscrimination rules acted to allow a free flow of information and kept companies from “picking favorites” from their users or contributors or restricting the natural flow of the web. With the rules struck down, large net providers (like Verizon) could restrict certain users or sites, direct the “flow” of information to specific channels, create tiered & price based internet service (fast lane/slow lane style), or completely block sites or users at will. I have your attention now, don’t I?

Wondering why this is a big deal for libraries too? Well, one of the core foundations of modern librarianship it the free flow of information. A belief that information should be easily available to all persons is part of the foundation of nearly all libraries. A restriction on our internet or a provider blocking whatever they deem appropriate could stop the information flow we’ve been enjoying for a while now. A restricted or tiered internet could prohibit small start ups and tinkerer’s from getting off the ground and creating masterpieces; imagine what would have happened to Facebook in it’s early days if every net provider channeled users to Myspace only. Not awesome.

What everyone in the library, information, technology, and really…well…everyone waits for now, is to see what exactly happens. We have an idea of all of the bad things that could come of this but we will only know the true impacts when the companies embrace the ruling. At the moment, all we can do is be aware of the problem and look for opportunities where we can help make a change.

If you would like more information about Net Neutrality, Verizon v. FCC, or the possible impacts please check out the following links:


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