ALCTS members can advocate now for continuing net neutrality protections.
Why now? On November 21, 2017 the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) formally announced its intention to repeal the “Open Internet Order,” a set of net neutrality rules [PDF] adopted by the FCC in 2015. The five commissioners of the FCC will vote on the proposed repeal [PDF], titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” on December 14, 2017.
The FCC first adopted some net neutrality rules in 2010 and later passed the comprehensive Open Internet Order in 2015, which classified broadband internet service providers as “common carriers,” that is, entities or utilities who transport goods, people, or telecommunications. The 2015 classification was an acknowledgement of the increasingly major role the Internet plays in the lives of American people: banking and bill-paying, job applications, shopping, socializing, and more all regularly take place on the Internet today. If you want to learn more about net neutrality as online non-discrimination, ALA maintains a advocacy primer on net neutrality and how it affects library communities.
The signature aspect of the 2015 Open Internet Order is its definitive provisions against throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization: It forbids internet service providers from blocking or slowing access to any part of the internet or from allowing content providers to pay (Internet service providers (ISPs) to favor their content. By repealing the 2015 order, the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order would make it legal for ISPs to block users’ access to sites or throttle back their data speeds—although the proposed order would require providers to inform their users when they are engaging in these practices. The Washington Office has produced an in-depth analysis of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order and outlined how the repeal would proceed in two recent District Dispatch posts.
The American Library Association (ALA) has previously issued two resolutions in support of net neutrality: the first in 2006 [PDF] and another in 2014 [PDF] affirming their support. ALA is strenuously opposed to the repeal of net neutrality rules and released an emphatic statement on November 21.
What can you do to advocate for continued protections to net neutrality? Following the advice of the Washington Office’s most recent District Dispatch, here are three actions you can take to make your voice heard:
1. Contact your representatives in Congress.
While Congress doesn’t have a direct say in the FCC’s decision, they can advocate for a delay of the vote, and can pursue future legislation concerning net neutrality, especially if your Congressperson is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee (see below). The ALA Washington Office has put together an email form you can submit, or you can contact them directly via phone call or comment form.
2. Encourage your institution to sign on to a joint letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Washington Office suggests contacting the Congressional committee that oversees the FCC, the Energy and Commerce Committee. Encourage your library or institution to sign on to a joint letter to the Committee asking them to halt the December 14 vote.
3. Contact the FCC.
The Washington Office notes that they are doubtful that a grassroots effort will convince any of the three commissioners opposed to net neutrality to change their minds (and votes), as they explain in a recent District Dispatch. However, you can still email any of the five FCC commissioners, including Chairman Ajit Pai, or call the office of the Chairman at 202-418-1000.
And here’s a bonus action for the future:
4. Keep up to date with ALA and ALCTS advocacy.
Subscribe to District Dispatch to get updates about governmental actions, analyses of how they affect the library community, and suggestions for actions you can take. You can also contact the ALCTS Advocacy & Policy Committee with your concerns or questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.