By Katherine Schneider, for the Chippewa Valley Post
Just before Thanksgiving, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced a plan to roll back the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order.
This would do away with net neutrality rules that are critical to the functioning of libraries, people with disabilities and democracy itself!
At its core, net neutrality means that Internet service providers must treat all legal Internet content equally, and cannot – for example – offer faster or better service to individuals or companies willing and able to pay more for such service. The FCC’s 2015 order classified the Internet as a public utility, subject to the same government regulation as landline telephones and similar services and established the “neutrality” principle.
After reading on, if you agree that this principle is worth preserving, contact Rep. Ron Kind (D-3rd District) and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) before Dec. 14, when the FCC rollback vote is scheduled.
Libraries and People With Disabilities
Libraries rely on the Internet to collect, create, and disseminate essential online information and services to the public. If you check our online library catalog, www.more.lib.wi.us you’ll notice you can access magazines, books, music, videos and audiobooks online, free!
You can also search databases for information, reserve materials for in-person pick up and find out about new items at the library. If net neutrality is repealed, Internet service providers could decide to charge more or provide slower access to places like libraries. Maybe they wouldn’t, but why fix what isn’t broken?
Net neutrality is a good thing for those of us with disabilities who rely heavily on the Internet. Because I’m blind and my Seeing Eye dog doesn’t drive, I would have transportation issues getting to a bookstore, shopping independently at one or reading a print book even if I found one I wanted.
Access to libraries online, ranging from my public library to Bookshare and the WI Talking Book and Braille Library, is a life-saver for me. Slower or more costly access would hurt.
An Advocate’s Concern
Amber Smock, the director of advocacy for Access Living, put it very well recently:
“As a deaf person, I’d be literally unable to do my job . . . if I didn’t have access to the Internet and especially high-quality video streaming for video relay service in American Sign Language.
“And I know that many, many people with disabilities rely on various digital technology and access to the Internet to have greater impact as advocates than ever before in history,” she added.
(Access Living is an independent living center in Chicago. Such centers for independent living – like the one in Western Wisconsin – provide information to people with disabilities about services and tools for independent living, as well as advocating on disability issues.)
Net Neutrality and Enhanced Democracy
Democracy depends on the free interchange of ideas and ready access to information to inform one’s decisions. Less burdensome government regulations might seem like a good thing at first glance.
But I remember deregulation of the phone companies. It didn’t get better or cheaper for me! Big Telecom may benefit from the repeal of net neutrality, but I doubt you or I will. I predict we’ll get slower access and higher prices.
Please join me in contacting our members of Congress and asking them to point out to the Chairman of the FCC that citizens don’t want – or need – net neutrality repealed.
Katherine Schneider is a retired clinical psychologist, author and disability issues advocate. She blogs at http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com.