Extremely Important Library Topic: Net Neutrality is in Danger!!

We are very interested in library advocacy here at CMLE HQ, and we know that not everyone feels comfortable speaking up to their stakeholders, legislators, or community members about the great work you do in libraries.

But: this is important.

The FCC is getting ready to vote on whether to end net neutrality.

Network neutrality symbol

You’ve heard these words before – they are all over the news and social media. It sounds like one of those complicated issues that would be okay to just nod and say “Oh, yeah, sure – that stuff” and go on with your day.


In a very brief nutshell, net neutrality means that we can access the Internet any way we want. We can zip around and look at stuff we like.  We can choose what sites we look at, and what we do there. While speed is not always perfect, at least it does chug along pretty quickly. Remember accessing the Internet back in the 90s? When an image would load a pixel or a line at a time on your screen?? I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE DARK AGES!!!

Ending net neutrality means that Verizon or AT&T or Spectrum (or a similar company) now owns your access to the Internet.

I have a Verizon phone. It’s fine. I use it to look at Google several dozen times a day. But!! Verizon owns Yahoo. If Verizon owns my access to the Internet, they can easily (oh, so easily) announce that everyone on Verizon’s cell coverage is now using Yahoo.

  • You want Google? Neat. That costs extra.
  • And of course, Google also owns YouTube; so you want to watch a YouTube video? That costs extra.
  • Does your school use Google Classroom or Google Docs? You aren’t getting to that on a Verizon connection!
  • Maybe your school works out a deal with Google (who doesn’t currently provide Internet service) to provide Internet service to you at work. Great. But are you at home and need to do some work? Not on a Spectrum connection – without an extra fee.

This is just one teeny example of what will happen if companies suddenly own your ability to access the Internet.

Take a moment to think how much further this will go – and then absolutely freak out. Because it’s worse than whatever you are thinking.

Remember life 20 years ago? We didn’t have constant Internet access. But life has changed! How many of us bank online – and may have to pay AT&T to get access to our money or to pay our bills?  How many of us download books to listen to in the car? How many people stream really fun podcasts? Who depends on Amazon to deliver great stuff to you? Or Spotify to bring great music to you? How many of you email your family? Update your Facebook page with photos of kids and pets so your friends can keep up? Anyone play games on your phone? Have Google reading you turn by turn directions when you drive someplace new? Get access to the latest research for academic papers? Read your news online?  Anyone using Duolingo to learn a new language? Anyone slightly addicted to the 24/7 live stream of the Kitten Academy?? (it’s not just me, right??) Maybe you want to watch Netflix or Hulu – but Spectrum owns your access to the Internet, and they have no economic interest in you leaving their cable channels. You might be able to get to Netflix, but it may t a k e  a  r e a l l y  l o o o o o n g   t i m e  t o  g e t  s o m e t h i n g.

Think about the work you do every day. What do patrons do in your library? How much of it involves being able to access the internet?

This is not fantasy. This is already happening in other countries. Today. Now.

You need net neutrality for yourself.

You need net neutrality for your library.

You need net neutrality for your community.

But, you ask:

It’s shockingly simple.

You go tell the FCC how much this will damage you, your library, your patrons, and your community. Or, just pick one of those things. The important thing is to GO SAY SOMETHING!!

Where do you do this shocking simple thing??

WEBSITE: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

Open that link on a computer, not a mobile device.

I’m there! Now what???

  • They ask for a proceedings number. This is: 17-108.
  • Type your name. (All government forms ask for this; hopefully it keeps down the spam bots.)
  • Type your address (I used my work address. I had to look it up, and that was the toughest part of the whole process)

I’m in the groove now! What do I say??

Speak from your heart. Identify yourself as a library employee, if you want to. Tell them about a patron who used the internet today to find a wonderful book, to access their veteran’s benefits, to  talk with their grandkids who live across the country. Tell them about the training you do to help people use the Internet. Tell them how much you love accessing any site that makes you happy.

Remember to ask for the specific thing you want: Free and fast access to the Internet!!

ACK!!! I got scared!! It sounded hard!!! I didn’t do anything!! NOW WHAT??

Deep breath in; deep breath out.

Just go back and follow the directions. Share your voice. Be heard! Speak for your community.

Verizon, AT&T, Spectrum  – these companies depend on us getting scared, or assuming someone else will handle it so that everything turns out okay.

They have lots of high priced lobbyists who cheerfully offer to write regulations that make them rich. It’s their jobs. They are babbling about “free markets” and “let the market decide.” Neat in some situations; but here that just means one thing: “Give us money or you get nothing. Enjoy your blocked and throttled Internet libraries!! You guys don’t have big budgets to pay us, so good luck with whatever scraps we throw to you!”

(I’m paraphrasing here. But that is the message, if not the exact wording.)

You don’t have high priced lobbyists. You just have us. We just have you.

No pressure here, but…the fate of library service as you know it depends on a free access to the Internet.

So, yeah. It’s kind of a big deal.

If you contact legislators and stakeholders all the time: excellent.  Tell them about your feelings on net neutrality.

If you have never contacted a legislator, or never wanted to raise your voice, or to get involved – this is not the time to be shy or neutral. We need you. You need the Internet. (How else are you going to read these fun blog posts? Or download our Books and Beverages book group podcast???)

Why are you still here????


(Then, forward this post to every single person you know!!!)


Award yourself one Official Superhero point for helping to save the Internet for us all!