Net Neutrality Testimony of Patricia Tumulty, Executive Director, New Jersey Library Association

Testimony of Patricia A. Tumulty,
Executive Director, New Jersey Library Association
Before the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee
March 11, 2018

On behalf of the members of the New Jersey Library Association, I am here today to give our wholehearted support for the package of bills being considered by this committee to restore “Net Neutrality” for the residents of New Jersey.  We strongly opposed the December actions of the FCC.

Providing equal access to information is a fundamental principle of the New Jersey Library Association. We believe the recent action by the FCC jeopardizes this principle and must be reversed as soon as possible.

We thank the sponsors of these bills for quickly introducing legislation which is designed to overturn the FCC’s actions and keep all lanes of the information superhighway open to all here in New Jersey.

I would also like to applaud Governor Murphy for the actions his administration has done in this area.  Governor Murphy was one of the first governors to issue an executive order regarding net neutrality and its impact on governmental operations. In addition, Attorney General Grewal has joined in the multistate law suit to overturn the FCC ruling.

The net neutrality rules which were overturned by the FCC promoted free speech and intellectual expression.  We are extremely concerned that the removal of existing net neutrality rules will create a tiered version of the internet in which libraries and other noncommercial enterprises are limited to the internet’s “slow lanes” while high-definition movies and corporate content obtain preferential treatment.

People who come to the library because they cannot afford broadband access at home should not have their choices in information shaped by who can pay the most. Library sites—key portals for those looking for unbiased knowledge—and library users could be among the first victims of slowdowns.

Librarians know that even subtle differences in Internet transmission speeds can make a great difference in how a user receives, uses, and shares digital information.  Libraries in New Jersey serve very rural as well as highly urbanized communities.  Throughout our State, residents currently access databases of curated content used by students, entrepreneurs, immigrants, lifelong learners and parents.  Costs for these databases are already quite high; having to pay additional costs to ‘deliver’ the content could disenfranchise New Jersey residents that rely on these databases.  The same is true for the countless patrons who use streaming and e-content services offered by our libraries.

Virtually all libraries in New Jersey offer no-fee wi-fi to library patrons in our buildings. In most cases, this free wi-fi is negotiated by municipalities as part of the local cable access agreement.   Our patrons rely on this wi-fi in their capacities as students, parents, lifelong learners, and, perhaps most importantly, as citizens.  Without access to high speed, no-fee, wi-fi, many of our patrons will be unable to access programs and services offered by local, state and federal governments.  They could also be unable to access the employment and job re-training services offered at many libraries.  The impact on scholarship with our academic library communities would be incalculable.

Net neutrality is the only protection in place that assures the Internet, created through our tax dollars, serves all Americans equally.  Abandoning net neutrality in favor of an unregulated environment where some content is prioritized over other content removes opportunities for entrepreneurs, students and citizens to learn, grow and participate in their government.  It will further enhance the digital divide and severely inhibit the ability of our nation’s libraries to serve those on both sides of that divide. 

The New Jersey Library Association strongly supports the efforts of the NJ Legislature and the Governor to keep all lanes of the information superhighway open to all.   We look forward to working with you on all efforts to keep a strong information infrastructure open to our residents.