Rhode Island Library Association heads Kieran Auton and Julie Holden recently published an op-ed in the Providence Journal that opens with a misleading introduction and moves into a silly argument about net neutrality. Here’s the introduction:
These days, when we talk on the phone, send a text, or stream a movie, we expect our experience to be seamless. If we are at work, at school, at home, or in the library, being online and being connected is a way of life. Yet, our state is economically diverse, and many cannot afford internet service in their homes. Every day, thousands of Rhode Islanders go to their local library for free high-speed internet access. In fact, libraries are the main provider of internet access for many in our
Ending net neutrality is not about allowing Internet service providers to put the screws to low-income households and low-revenue non-profits. If anything, it opens the possibility of getting the Internet into households that don’t have it, because it allows the variation of plans. Perhaps a low-income household can’t afford the cost of a plan with streaming television and video games but could afford a plan that allows its members to do job searches and school research and other classic Internet activities. Perhaps a library could differentiate its Internet access, with a few dedicated machines for high-powered activity, but many more for activities more typical of a library, like reading and research.
The policy that Auton and Holden prefer is akin to forcing everybody to buy the same data plan for their cell phones. Internet providers are companies. They need customers, and they won’t stay in business long if they don’t give customers what they want. Differentiation helps that objective. Really, with what other service do people insist that customers’ only options must be everything or nothing?
Typically, the answer to that question is that a preference for an all-or-nothing industry, as with health care, tends to mean that the advocates want to be able to control the “all” so they can control our lives.