Net neutrality: What it means for libraries

I would like to focus this month on an issue that is of great importance to libraries and the patrons we serve.

In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed “net neutrality” rules that were previously in place to ensure that consumers have equal access to web-based content. The rules prohibited internet service providers (ISP) from charging for content, or giving certain customers preferential access to content. The FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules turned internet access into a commodity, something that can be bought and sold rather than regulated as a public utility.

Public libraries nation-wide are concerned about this decision. Net neutrality is fundamental to the principles of free and open access to information. As a trusted civic organization, public libraries should not have to compete for access to the internet, nor should the flow of ideas and information be subject to for-profit business decisions of internet service providers.

A number of legal challenges have followed the repeal, including a lawsuit against the FCC filed by attorneys-general from 21 states, including Washington State. The lawsuit claims that the repeal of net neutrality represents an “abuse of regulatory discretion.” It also cites lawful content as protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In response to the FCC’s decision, the Washington state Legislature passed House Bill 2282, subsequently signed into law by the governor. The measure prohibits ISPs from blocking legal content; impairing or “throttling” internet traffic based on content, apps, services or devices used; or favoring certain online traffic for the company’s own benefit, called “paid prioritization.”

Many elected officials view reliable internet service as a critical component of a fully participative electorate and there is bi-partisan support among members of Congress, including Washington State’s congressional delegation, to re-establish net-neutrality protections.

Many patrons rely on KCLS to seek jobs, conduct research, or find essential resources in times of crisis. Creating barriers to information is counter to the principles of equitable access that public libraries defend. KCLS will continue to monitor this issue and keep our patrons apprised.

Lisa Rosenblum is director of the King County Library System.

More in Opinion

A look at the races for the state’s 9 top jobs

Nine of the most powerful political jobs in Washington state will be… Continue reading

Amateurism must be maintained to preserve education-based sports

While we addressed a number of important issues with our member state… Continue reading

High costs drive people to move

Too often, elected officials overlook the cumulative costs of regulations, taxes and… Continue reading

This political break-up couldn’t come at a worse time

As backers of I-1000 gear up, a legal spat involving others is casting a shadow on their efforts.

High school football is thriving, not dying

By Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS executive director When the annual High School… Continue reading

Sen. Mona Das. COURESY PHOTO
After a senator’s claim is debunked, a call for an apology

The GOP wants a Democratic senator held to account for accusations which an investigation found to be false

Mitsubishi launching into regional jet space

Traditionally, media coverage of the Paris Air Show focuses on the battle… Continue reading

Libraries are welcoming spaces for everyone

King County Library System is committed to inclusion – the idea that… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Inslee passes up a chance to confront corporate ‘blackmail’

Governor skipped a meeting about tax breaks, he said, Boeing squeezed out of the state.

Parents and adult fans: biggest challenge facing high school sports today

By Karissa Niehoff and Mick Hoffman, for the Reporter Inappropriate adult behavior… Continue reading

Habitat work shows promise of salmon recovery

Treaty tribes are encouraged by fish passage improvement projects in the Puget… Continue reading

Labor Day epilogue: partnering for Success

A few years ago on Labor Day, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee… Continue reading