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Net Neutrality and Cultural Institutions

by Susan Chun

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on the importance of net neutrality

Today, as you surf the web, you might notice that a number of sites you visit, from Kickstarter, reddit, and Vimeo to our friends at Museums and the Web, will feature a loading symbol—like the one in our header image today. This is because it is Internet Slowdown Day. The symbol serves as a reminder that the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) is currently considering dramatic changes to internet regulations that would bring an end to “net neutrality,” the principle that all data on the internet should be treated equally by service providers and governments.

Both individuals and organizations around the country seek to raise awareness that without the protections that provide equal access to the splendid network of knowledge that is today’s internet, your experience of, say, reading a blog like this one might be fundamentally different. The new FCC policy could create slow lanes and fast lanes for content, a situation that is likely to privilege resource-rich media companies at the expense of content-rich (but cash-constrained) nonprofits such as the MCA. If you’re a reader of this blog, if you believe, as I do, that a free and open internet has transformed—and enriched—the work that museums and other cultural organizations pursue, then you care about net neutrality.

My career as a museum publisher began in the days before museums were active on the web, so I have seen the audience for museum information grow exponentially. The open internet has allowed museums to develop creative content: online publications, games, podcasts, videos, and more. It has made us publishers of encyclopedic collections that have changed the face of research into art, history, and culture. It has spurred digitization and preservation efforts. It has provided a platform for museums to broadcast the voices of our artists, curators, educators, and visitors to audiences around the globe.

Battle for the Net, a coalition that advocates for the preservation of net neutrality, is delivering comments to Congress, the White House, and the FCC. To add your voice to this important cause, visit their website.