This page, as its title suggests, is about libraries and net neutrality.
The NYPL is selling its central destination Science, Industry and Business, Library (SIBL), eliminating the science library entirely while ceasing to collect science books because `science is on the internet.' We don't agree with this reasoning. It's offered at the very same time that there is consternation that the incoming Trump administration may purge archives of federal agency science data, e.g “temperature of the planet from weather stations, from satellites, from ocean buoys” and other information, especially if there is not a robust “environment that supports libraries.” Further, there should be concern about how there is at our libraries a dangerous destruction of information we likely need to know about climate change in order to survive.
And this notion that we should be able to rely so exclusively on the internet to obtain knowledge about science comes at a time when something called "net neutrality," open and equal access to the internet, is under dire threat.
We therefore thought it was time for Citizens Defending to start a new page of links to articles about libraries and net neutrality. People sometimes wrongly think of the internet as a substitute for libraries just as they sometimes wrongly think of electronic books as a substitute destined to replace the physical books that people more often prefer. We have already posted a page (Physical Books vs. Digital Books) about why physical books are in many ways preferable to electronic books notwithstanding that digital books have their own set of merits to recommend them. We have also posted a page (Articles About Library Privacy and Surveillance In Libraries) about an escalating concern in the digital age, surveillance in libraries (a concern escalating with internet use as well as digital books).
Rather than substituting for libraries, the internet supplements them and also very importantly integrates with libraries. Libraries provide internet service and some services (access to some data and data bases) that are hard for average citizens to make use of except when they are available (perhaps only) through the internet connections that libraries have.
The attacks on the internet to eliminate "net neutrality," and those who would conduct them, have much in common with those forces eager to diminish what is essentially the same public commons represented by our libraries. The realms for the pursuit of truth, facts and information should be a public commons democratically available to all. Without robust and healthy libraries and without "net neutrality" and a healthy internet, the monied, corporate conglomerate, mainstream, commercial media will dominate the messages and information that get through to us. Those inflected messages and that information getting through is unlikely to be neutral in content. The choke hold it represents would be asphyxiating for democracy and for much more that makes life vital.
Not surprisingly, librarians see it as their jobs to help protect "net neutrality."
Here are articles about libraries and "net neutrality."
• Democracy Now: FCC Under Trump: Net Neutrality & Internet Freedom Face New Attack, February 14, 2017.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to look at President Donald Trump’s newly appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, who has begun to attack net neutrality rules and other consumer protections. In a series of actions earlier this month, Pai blocked nine companies from providing affordable high-speed internet to low-income families. He withdrew the FCC’s support from an effort to curb the exorbitant cost of phone calls from prison. And he also said he disagrees with the 2015 decision to regulate the internet like a public utility.. .• The Washington Post: Why the death of net neutrality would be a disaster for libraries, by Andrea Peterson, May 16, 2014.
. . . Ajit Pai is Trump's new FCC chairman, and it should come as a surprise to no one that he poses a significant threat, not only to net neutrality, but also to the digital divide. In his first weeks-his first week in office, he talked a good game about bridging the digital divide. But actions speak louder than words. And if you look at his actions, there's a very, very troubling history of voting against reforms to both bring affordable access to poor Americans, to low-income Americans, to people of color, who disproportionately lack home internet access, but there's also a troubling history of voting against net neutrality. He voted against the Lifeline order, to modernize Lifeline and bring affordable broadband to low-income families. He voted against the E-rate order, to help bring high-speed internet to schools and libraries in poor neighborhoods. And he voted against net neutrality, to keep the internet open so that people who don't usually get a spot in mainstream media can tell their own stories, can organize for justice and can make a living. And so, we're very concerned. We have a close eye on him. And we can't trust what he says. And actions speak louder than words.
JESSICA GONZALEZ (deputy director, senior counsel at Free Press. González was formerly on the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee and Diversity Committee. She’s also the former executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition.): . . . we're in an administration that is trying to shut down speech. We have a president and his surrogates telling the media to shut up. They're trying to silence dissent. And the internet is the one clear way where we know that people, movements can control the narrative and can organize. Four million Americans wrote to the FCC in 2015 and told them, "We want an open internet. We understand that the internet companies have monopoly-like status, that they are blocking-you know, that they have the power and the incentive to block access and to cut special deals behind our backs. And we don't want that. We want to be able-once we pay the hefty prices we do to get on the internet, we want to be able to go where we want, see what we want, and access the content we want, without getting shoved over into a slow lane if you don't have the money."
. . .another group who cares deeply about this issue is the library community. The Switch spoke to Lynne Bradley, the director of government relations at the American Library Association's Washington office, about how net neutrality affects libraries, the people who rely on them and public institutions at large. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.• Counterspin: Jessica Gonzalez on FCC Chair Ajit Pai, by CounterSpin, February 17, 2017.
Where do libraries stand on net neutrality?
Net neutrality is really important for libraries because we are, first of all, in the information business. Our business now is not just increasingly, but dramatically, online, using digital information and providing services in this digital environment. That means that we need to have solid and ubiquitous Internet services.
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. . As public institutions, we're being threatened with limited resources and are trying to provide the best possible service we can given the access we currently have. Being slowed down hurts the American public because our institutions will not be able to compete, if you will, and the American public will not have comparable or equal access to the resources that are provided by libraries or other public institutions.
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. . what we as librarians and as educators in our communities see is that subtle differences in these speeds can make a great difference in how a user receives and uses the information. Even slight slowdowns will have an impact and can potentially limit public access to public schools, to public libraries, to public education.
In a way, not having a truly open Internet is like privatizing all of the Internet. Our nation was built on the concept of public schools, and public libraries are part of that, even the universal service fund at the FCC. These are part of our nation's public policies that say as all educated, as all can have public libraries, as all can have public phone service, it's best for the country as a whole.
And now we're segmenting that and giving those who are able to pay more different access than the general public can have. I think we haven't explored the impact this is going to have on public institutions and the real way this will deny access.
We see users every day, both virtual users and in-library users, and we can see how these subtle changes are going to impact the public's access to information and the right to know.
"T-Mobile Very Pleased with Direction of Change under Trump Administration, CEO Says." That headline tells you . . . the phone company exec is pleased, he says, because Pai's appointment signals "an air of less regulation."• International Federation of Library Associations: From the Annual Conference-Don't Get Stuck in the Slow Lane - Libraries Call for Action on Net Neutrality, 15 August 2016.
The idea that the media industry hates regulation is fiction, given that it’s government that grants licenses to companies to use the public airwaves and monopoly franchises to cable companies. In so doing, as media scholar Bob McChesney has said, government isn’t so much setting the terms of competition as picking the winners. What’s objected to, of course, are public interest regulations—including the net neutrality rules that allow for a democratic and diverse internet.
. . .[According to Jessica Gonzalez, deputy director and senior counsel at the group Free Press. Ajit Pai appointed FCC Chair by Trump] is talking a really good game on digital divide, but when you look at his history and also his plans for the future. . .he voted against E-rate modernization to help bring faster internet speeds and internet connections to schools and libraries in poor neighborhoods. .
Growth both in internet access and available content has revolutionised access to information and opportunities to express and share ideas. However, digital technologies bring with them the possibility to manage what people view. The World Library and Information Congress will dedicate a session on 15 August at 13:45 to the question of Net Neutrality, and launch IFLA’s new statement on the subject.
The internet is built to be egalitarian, allowing everyone to access information from across the web without unfair interference.
However, this is not the case when Internet service providers (ISPs) can give preference to particular websites, confining others to the slow-lane. This is what happens when the principle of net neutrality is compromised.
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. . the implications of allowing discrimination between services are also significant. Users of websites which are unable to pay or negotiate with ISPs may see declining performance.
Library sites, which aim to act as a key portal for those looking for knowledge and culture, could be among the first victims. More broadly, library users will find their choices in accessing information shaped by site performance, rather than the quality of the content offered.
The statement also tackles the practice of zero-rating - allowing people to use particular services without this counting towards any limitations on data use. The idea of free access, especially for the least well off, is attractive at first glance. However, it would lead to a situation where the poor have access to only a small part of the internet, while richer users enjoy much freer access to information. This is, once again, incompatible with the mission of libraries.
Defending net neutrality will therefore be a key element of libraries' work in the digital age.