[Libs-Or] Fwd: [District Dispatch] American Library Association Wants Network Neutrality
diedre08 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 11 10:04:12 PDT 2009
American Library Association Wants Network Neutrality
<http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=3495> August 11th, 2009 |
Category: Technology, the Internet, and
By Carrie Lowe <http://www.savetheinternet.com/user/25>, August 10, 2009
At last month’s American Library Association annual conference in Chicago, I
served on a Sunday morning panel presentation on the topic of Network
Neutrality. On that day, there was no Network Neutrality legislation in
Congress (like there is today, thanks to Reps. Markey and Eshoo). There was
no flashy evening news piece on the topic, no rock stars on the Hill
advocating for a free and open Internet. Yet 500 librarians showed up on a
spectacular Chicago summer morning to hear Cliff Lynch, Greg Jackson and me
talk about Network Neutrality.
If you are not familiar with librarians, this story might surprise you. But
if you have ever found yourself on the business end of a discussion of
intellectual freedom issues with someone from our community, you can predict
what I am going to say next: The audience asked incredibly thoughtful
questions and challenged some basic assumptions.
You see, Network Neutrality is, at its core, an issue central to librarians’
professional hearts. Like other issues that we’ve dealt with – such as
censorship or book banning – Network Neutrality is fundamentally about
having access to ideas.
*Libraries’ Position on Network Neutrality*
The ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy laid out its position on
Network Neutrality in an issue
in 2006. In that paper, we argued that libraries’ interest in
Network Neutrality is twofold.
First, Network Neutrality is an intellectual freedom issue. The ALA defines
intellectual freedom as the right of all people to seek and receive
information from all points of view, without restriction. Unfortunately,
there is no law that protects intellectual freedom on the Internet today.
Internet service providers (such as the cable and telephone companies) have
the ability to block or degrade information or services traveling over their
networks. If these companies discriminate against certain kinds of
information based on the content of the message being delivered, this would
represent a severe violation of intellectual freedom.
Second, Network Neutrality is a competition issue. Libraries in the digital
age are providers of online information of all kinds. Among hundreds of
examples, public libraries are developing online local history resources,
and academic libraries allow the online public to explore some of their
rarest treasures. Libraries, as trusted providers of free public access to
information, should not compete for priority with for-profit history or
literature Web sites that might be able to afford to strike deals with
service providers. This makes the Network Neutrality debate not only a
matter of philosophy and values for librarians, but also of livelihood.
In addition, librarians value innovation. Many of the technologies most
central to the Internet are founded in principles of librarianship.
Metadata? We call it cataloging. Online search? May I point you to the
online public access catalog (OPAC)? Linked content? Cross references in the
card catalog. Indexes, full-text search – the list goes on and on. We
understand that in the context of the Internet, innovation begins at the
edges; a killer app is more likely to be developed by two guys in a garage
than by a highly paid executive in an industrial park. It is vital to
preserve and encourage this innovation that has built the Internet. Network
Neutrality is central to achieving this goal.
*So What Do Libraries Want?*
While our profession is built on some lofty principles – and librarians are
among the fiercest free speech and intellectual freedom advocates you’ll
meet – we are also a community of pragmatists. We believe that there is a
way to strike a balance on Network Neutrality.
*There oughtta be a law.* The FCC changed the rules in 2005, removing the
legal protections that guaranteed consumers the right to send and receive
communications and content of their choosing over the Internet. Legal
protections to prevent discrimination by ISPs and to protect intellectual
freedom and innovation on the Internet should be restored. There are two
ways to do this:
1. *The “fifth principle”of nondiscrimination is right on the money.* The
language of the nondiscrimination condition the FCC applied to the
AT&T/BellSouth merger (and echoed in the Broadband Technology Opportunities
Program rules) is rational and appropriate. We urge the FCC to make this
2. *Congress should act to preserve the neutral and open nature of the
Internet.* The Internet Freedom Preservation Act is the right bill at the
right time. We urge Congress to pass this legislation.
*Tiered pricing structures are both fair and unrelated to the central
debate.* We strongly agree that any Web site or organization (including
libraries – nearly all public libraries provide no-cost access to the
Internet) with a high-bandwidth connection should pay more for that service
than a home user or a smaller organization. This is a traditional tiered
pricing structure, and it is a fair and proven model. However, once a user
has purchased bandwidth, there should be no artificial restraints on the
legal content that he or she receives.
The Network Neutrality debate shows no signs of slowing down, and as I
witnessed in Chicago, librarians show no sign of losing interest in this
topic. We look forward to working with policymakers to protect the free and
open nature of the Internet. Our libraries – and our nation – deserve
*This post originally appeared on Save the
Lincoln County Library District
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Work email: diedre at beachbooks.org
Home email: diedre08 at gmail.com
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