NJLA Comments to the FCC on Net Neutrality
The current net neutrality rules promote free speech and intellectual expression. The New Jersey Library Association is concerned that changes to existing net neutrality rules will create a tiered version of the internet in which libraries and other noncommercial enterprises are limited to the internet’s “slow lanes” while high-definitionmovies and corporate content obtain preferential treatment.
People who come to the library because they cannot afford broadband access at home should not have their choices in information shaped by who can pay the most. Library sites—key portals for those looking for unbiased knowledge—and library users could be among the first victims of slowdowns.
Librarians know that even subtle differences in Internet transmission speeds can make a great difference in how a user receives, uses, and shares digital information. Libraries in New Jersey serve very rural as well as highly urbanized communities. Throughout our State residents currently access databases of curated content used by students, entrepreneurs, immigrants, lifelong learners and parents. Costs for these databases are already quite high – having to pay additional costs to ‘deliver’ the content could disenfranchise New Jersey residents that rely on these databases. The same is true for the countless patrons who use streaming and e-content services offered by our libraries.
Virtually all libraries in New Jersey offer no-fee Wi-Fi to library patrons. Our patrons rely on this Wi-Fi in their capacities as students, parents, lifelong learners, and, perhaps most importantly as citizens. Without access to high speed, no-fee, Wi-Fi, many of our patrons will be unable to access programs and services offered by local, state and federal governments. They could also be unable to access the employment and job re-training services offered at many libraries. The impact on scholarship with our academic library communities would be incalculable.
Net neutrality is the only protection in place that assures the Internet, created through our tax dollars, serves all Americans equally. Abandoning net neutrality in favor of an unregulated environment where some content is prioritized over other content removes opportunities for entrepreneurs, students and citizens to learn, grow and participate in their government. It will further enhance the digital divide and severely inhibit the ability of our nation’s libraries to serve those on both sides of that divide.
The New Jersey Library Association strongly urges the FCC to maintain the existing rules relating to net neutrality.
July 12, 2017