Thursday, January 16, 2014

ALA president responds to ‘net neutrality’ ruling

“Here’s something you probably didn’t know,” writes Barbara Stripling, American Library Association president, at “The recent ruling striking down network neutrality doesn’t just affect websites and internet service providers — it affects libraries, too.”

Wikipedia defines net neutrality as “the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.”

As related by Stripling, a decision this week by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals gives commercial companies “the authority to block internet traffic, give preferential treatment to specific internet services, and steer internet users away from online content based on their own commercial interests. Since the internet is now the primary mechanism for delivering content and applications to the general public, it’s more important than ever that commercial ISPs not have that kind of power to control or otherwise manipulate such communications.”

She adds that “School, public, and college libraries rely upon the public availability of open, affordable internet access for school homework assignments, distance learning classes, e-government services, licensed databases, job-training videos, medical and scientific research, and many other essential services.”

Stripling argues that without net neutrality, libraries could face higher service charges for “newly premium online information and services. In a time of already-constrained budgets, paying more for more internet access would require tradeoffs such as fewer books, staff, and open hours.”

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