In December 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act which distributed $7 billion to increase broadband access in the United States. $3.2 billion was apportioned to create the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) detailed provisions of an Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) which included over $7.1 billion to support remote learning in schools and libraries. The ECF program focuses on schools and libraries, helping fund costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and other connectivity equipment. These funds are available to a wide range of libraries, including public, school, tribal, academic, research, and private libraries, in addition to library consortiums.
The main premise of “Net Neutrality: An Intellectual Freedom Issue” is that intellectual freedom and the full functioning of libraries in America will be impeded by allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to throttle content in pursuit of their financial and customer service interests. I have to admit that the two ideas seemed unrelated to me. Is the premise really true? How exactly does net neutrality relate to public libraries and their provision of internet access?
On January 4, 2017, the FCC issued an updated Declaratory Ruling of the Restoring Internet Freedom order, finalizing the changes the FCC would like to see done to it’s former Open Internet policy. While we wait to see how internet access might change under, one hurdle to the enactment of these policies might be the U.S. Congress.
Is Facebook’s offer of free internet access a boon to schools or a ploy to control curriculum?