James Werle, Internet 2 Community Anchor Program and Carson Block, Carson Block Consulting, discussed two levels of high-speed internet access: the technical level and policy level. Joyce Johnston, Department of English, George Mason University, reviewed the current issue of net neutrality.
James started by discussing a project to put a pilot toolkit for high speed access in at least 30 rural libraries. How do you manage your library connectivity, especially if you a rural librarian and don’t have a networking background, yet you are the access point for the community? Many rural libraries are not equipped to provide access. James and Carson developed a toolkit containing a self-assessment tool, advocacy program, and educational workbook. The self-assessment tool lists what you need to know, the equipment, etc. The toolkit doesn’t change as people come and go. Here are its components and processes.
After developing the toolkit, they visited rural sites to evaluate their environment. State libraries were involved to get their cooperation and provide a contact for the local librarians. It took several hours at each location to describe the toolkit and develop an action plan to improve connectivity.
The toolkit approach is to examine the technology inventory, present questions first; and then additional information and resources in text boxes. They showed librarians how to do their own speed testing. Here is a typical example of a network diagram from the toolkit.
They also helped libraries set up E-Rate (a government program providing discounts on telecommunications to eligible schools and libraries) if they were not already members .
Joyce Johnston, Dept. of English, George Mason University discussed the issues surrounding net neutrality. Here is a definition.
Net neutrality is under severe challenge now. There is no law in the US that protects it. It is supervised by the FCC as a public service. There is a strong move to transfer internet regulation to the Federal Trade Commission and change internet access to be like cable access is now. This will cause many problems; here is what we stand to lose
This is ALA’s position.
You can become your own ISP, then you can guarantee access. The FCC has developed a proposal for libraries.
Net neutrality vs. internet censorship: Educating the community is a good idea; most parents have no idea that this is a problem. There will also be an effect on consumers. State laws need to be changed, but this is difficult to do (a few states have recently enacted laws to protect net neutrality). We don’t have a national standard and that’s what we need the most. Legal challenges have been filed. Will we take the issue of the dismal state of high-speed internet access on as a country and have a national standard, or will we continue to have a patchwork of state laws?
The reason the FCC wants to get rid of net neutrality is because it’s more important for businesses to make money than to have an educated citizenry.