If you are someone for whom net neutrality has taken a back seat to all of the other urgent issues of 2017, you are not alone. While the protection of an Internet that doesn’t privilege corporations and the wealthy is a social justice issue, it is one that can easily get lost in the deluge of alarming, urgent headlines that have become our new normal in 2017. However, a coalition of professional organizations, non-profit advocacy groups, and companies — including the American Library Association — is preparing for a day of “internet-wide action to save net neutrality” on Wednesday, July 12th.
Looking for a plain-language explanation for why net neutrality matters? Here’s a good one, written in terms that librarians and archivists will find familiar — it’s about equal access to information:
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T must give everyone equal access to everything on the internet. That means that even if your ISP is owned by an ultra-conservative Christian, it can’t decide to block porn — if it’s on the internet, you have to have access to it. Your ISP also can’t prioritize some stuff over others as a way to make extra money, or to boost its own content over competitors. Imagine if Verizon made stories from Yahoo News, for example, which it owns, load very fast, while slowing down stories from competing outlets.
The American Library Association also has an FAQ page for library workers, and provides some good talking points in the language of librarianship and foundational principles of archival labor:
A world in which librarians and other noncommercial enterprises are of necessity limited to the Internet’s “slow lanes” while high-definition movies can obtain preferential treatment seems to us to be overlooking a central priority for a democratic society – the necessity of enabling educators, librarians, and, in fact, all citizens to inform themselves and each other just as much as the major commercial and media interests can inform them.
Finally, if you have seven minutes and a computer with audio (not a guarantee in the archives!), check out John Oliver’s original explainer and recent update on the issue — and don’t forget to put in your two cents by submitting your thoughts about the FCC’s proposed changes directly to the FCC and your congressional representatives.