How the Net Neutrality Repeal Could Impact Libraries

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While completing the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree, future library science professionals must prepare for the potential impact of the net neutrality repeal. Without the protections provided by net neutrality, the internet landscape could dramatically change, impacting those across the entire field.

While looking at the potential impacts, library science students should remember:

  • The net neutrality repeal has already gone into effect as of early 2018.
  • The repeal gives internet providers more freedom to limit the flow of information.
  • Libraries and patrons could suffer many negative effects in the coming years.

Understanding Net Neutrality

In 2014, President Obama proposed a plan designed to ensure the internet remained open to all (and unregulated by providers). The Federal Communications Commission voted to accept those rules at that time. Just a few years later, however, the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, started the fight to repeal these net neutrality protections.

The Fight Against the Net Neutrality Repeal

Upon learning about these intentions, millions of people responded with their concerns and requests to reconsider. Despite these strong public opinions, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, giving internet providers full control on how to regulate the internet activity of users.

The FCC Proclaims (Unfounded) Benefits

Throughout this process, Pai touted a number of benefits that could occur as a result of the repeal, including improved accessibility to broadband internet in underserved regions. Unfortunately, none of the benefits have yet to pan out — and many still await the negative repercussions that could befall libraries, schools and households around the country.

Potential Impacts on Libraries

Without protective net neutrality rules in place, libraries may have a hard time achieving their mission of making information accessible to all. Equal access to the internet landscape is no longer guaranteed — and library science professionals will likely have to find ways to cope with the changes.

Here are just some of the specific ways in which the net neutrality repeal may impact libraries:

Operating Expenses

With their newfound freedom, internet providers can create tiered pricing plans that give different levels of access to their users. They can block access to different websites at the lower levels of the pricing tier to encourage their customers to pay for higher access levels. This creates an unfair distribution of information, greatly limiting the resources offered to those without the financial means.

Under this pricing structure, libraries would likely have to pay more for internet to ensure their patrons could access as much information as possible. Libraries that cannot cover these additional expenses will only be able to offer their patrons access to the sites approved on that tier. This will create a huge divide as lesser-funded libraries fail to meet their mission of making information accessible to all.

Data Caps

Even with the highest tiered internet pricing, libraries could face data caps that drive up their expenses even more. As they are triggered by large volumes of traffic, these data caps could impact libraries that see the highest amount of foot traffic and serve the greatest need.

As additional patrons flow in after the data cap has been reached, the library will incur potentially high charges that could impact their bottom line. They must then make a difficult choice between covering the additional expenses or limiting their patrons’ pursuit of knowledge online.

Some internet providers may elect to throttle down speeds instead of charging more for data overages. Although it will not affect operating expenses, the slow internet speeds will still impact libraries’ ability to achieve their core mission.

Information Accessibility

Without any regulations, internet providers can also block certain websites without explanation or recourse. They can put these websites in tiered packages or simply block them from showing up altogether. As people search for information on a variety of topics, they may only receive search results that meet the criteria of the internet provider.

Internet providers even have the ability to partner with media giants and other companies to prioritize their results. By leaving many of the smaller players out of the results, the filtered information can create a skewed outlook on a variety of subjects. This directly goes against the mission of libraries to provide their patrons with open access to information.

As the place to go for information and inspiration, libraries will likely feel the impacts of the net neutrality repeal before anyone else. The professionals in this industry must be prepared to handle the repercussions to keep the libraries on track in achieving their mission.

The Impacts on Library and Information Science

The net neutrality repeal has potentially far-reaching impacts that can affect people across the entire library science field. Throttled speeds, data caps and other limitations inhibit the free flow of information across communities. Everyone from digital archivists to youth librarians will need to prepare themselves to handle the repercussions caused by this repeal.

Interested in helping navigate these challenges and keep information accessible to all? Get prepared for this journey by working toward the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree at USC. The knowledge learned here can help prepare library science professionals develop methods for managing the potential challenges of the net neutrality repeal.