March Washington E-Bulletin

March 2, 2015

The March issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is available now on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2015, Issue 03
*AALL Lobby Day Special Edition*

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW


AALL Applauds FCC Approval of Strong Net Neutrality Rules

February 26, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to adopt strict new rules for Internet providers, protecting net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility. Under the new rules, broadband Internet service will be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The rules lay out several key prohibitions on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including banning ISPs from blocking or slowing down (“throttling”) web traffic or speeding it up in exchange for money (“paid prioritization”), and will apply to both fixed and wireless carriers. The Commission voted to adopt the rules along party lines 3-2, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

AALL commends the FCC on this historic vote, which echoes our July comments to the Commission. Together with the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association, AALL urged the FCC to pursue reclassification under Title II, while exercising forbearance for regulations in the Communications Act that are not pertinent to contemporary Internet service, are costly, or are burdensome. “Law libraries rely on net neutrality to fulfill their duty to provide nondiscriminatory access to online legal content. Reclassifying the Internet under Title II…will ensure that law libraries are able to provide equal access to the Internet and that everyone – whether a researcher, attorney, self-represented litigant, small business owner, or student – has a consistent and reliable way of accessing information online,” AALL President Holly M. Riccio said in a statement.

The new rules reflect more than a year of deliberation by the FCC and a surprising about-face by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, whose initial proposal was much friendlier to ISPs. Internet Service Providers are likely to challenge the new Open Internet Order in the courts, while Congressional Republicans are seeking a legislative solution to undermine the FCC’s authority. Still, today’s vote is a significant victory for open Internet advocates and a strong signal of the Commission’s intent to protect net neutrality to the best of its ability.


Can’t make it to D.C.? Here’s how you can help…

February 12, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

In just a few short weeks, law librarians will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL’s top priority issues as part of our 2015 Local Advocate Lobby Day. Their conversations will cover a range of important topics facing law librarianship, including proposed Freedom of Information Act reforms, digital privacy, funding for the Government Publishing Office, Library of Congress, and related agencies.

If you’re unable to join your fellow AALL members in our nation’s capital, never fear! You can still help to magnify the impact of these meetings and expand AALL’s influence in Congress from the comfort of your desk.

Sign up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day.

Our Virtual Lobby Day will take place simultaneously on March 18 and you can take action at any time during the day. By registering for the Virtual Lobby Day in advance, you’ll receive personalized directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 18 using our Legislative Action Center. We’ll provide everything you need to take action on our targeted issues, including: background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and specific asks to make of your members of Congress based on their interests and committee assignments.

Participating in our Virtual Lobby Day is quick and easy. Pledge to take part today and help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill on March 18!


Guest Post: Confessions of a Novice Lobbyer

February 9, 2015

By Ronald Wheeler, Director of the Law Library & Information Resources & Associate Professor of Legal Research, Suffolk University Law School

In just five weeks, AALL will host its third Local Advocate Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.  Last March, I traveled to D.C. to attend the second Lobby Day and the experience was transformative for me.  Here’s why:

Although I had done some lobbying on the state level for LGBT rights issues back when I lived in New Mexico, before my trip to D.C., I had never met face-to-face with a U.S. congressperson or with their staff.  I had also never lobbied on issues related to law librarianship or to my professional life. I had always lobbied about deeply personal issues, calling on heartfelt emotions and personal experience to carry me through if I somehow faltered in meetings. So, the idea of meeting with my members of Congress to talk about the issues affecting my job was, frankly, terrifying to me. And, as a resident of California at the time, my members of Congress were media darlings with the equivalent of rock star status in my mind. The prospect of meeting with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Diane Feinstein had me quaking in my boots.

Thankfully, when I arrived in D.C., all of my fears and insecurities were anticipated and expertly dealt with by AALL’s Government Relations Office (GRO) staff. First – after welcoming us to Lobby Day headquarters in Capitol Hill and feeding us breakfast – the GRO staff administered an extremely well-run, detailed, and thorough advocacy training. We AALL volunteer advocates were given a presentation describing the bills we were to focus on, their current progress in Congress, and the issues being currently debated in the legislation. I walked away knowing the pros and cons of each bill, my senators and representative’s position on each, and written talking points to refer to during my conversations with my members of Congress’s staffs. I was given time to ask questions, to familiarize myself with each bill and its issues, and to practice my shtick.  By the time we were headed to the Hill, I felt entirely prepared and equipped to engage with my congresspersons.

In the afternoon, I met with staffers from Representative Pelosi, Senator Boxer, and Senator Feinstein’s offices. The legislative staff I spoke with was open and friendly and thankful to be briefed on issues like the Email Privacy Act and the recently-passed name change of the Government Printing Office to the Government Publishing Office.

The experience gave me a feeling of satisfaction for having conquered my fears and for doing essential work for my premier professional association. I learned about the AALL legislative priorities and their significance, I built valuable lobbying skills, and I formed relationships with staffers at my legislators’ offices.

My participation in AALL Lobby Day was a great experience. I highly recommend you give it a try for yourself.  I honestly had a blast, and if I can do it, anyone can.

The 2015 AALL Lobby Day will be held on Wednesday, March 18 in Washington, D.C. Register now to participate.


FCC Chairman Unveils Plan to Protect Net Neutrality

February 6, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

This week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal to regulate broadband Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, protecting net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility. The Commission is expected to vote on the Chairman’s plan on February 26.

AALL applauds the decision of Chairman Wheeler to rely on Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the authority for which we advocated in our July comments to the FCC. Reclassification under Title II would subject Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to common carrier rules that better ensure equal, nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet and require ISPs to operate more transparently. In an op-ed on Wired.com published Wednesday, Chairman Wheeler wrote, “Using [Title II], I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services….My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

While Open Internet advocates, content providers like Twitter and Netflix, and many Congressional Democrats lauded the Chairman’s decision, the proposed reclassification drew criticism from others. Senator John Thune, who recently floated legislation to restrict the FCC’s authority on net neutrality, said in a statement, “Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to regulate the Internet as a public utility is not about net neutrality – it is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.” Meanwhile, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon look poised to sue. With the late February vote fast approaching, legal challenges could make for a more drawn out process.

Net neutrality is critical to law libraries, their missions, and their patrons. AALL urges to the Commission to adopt the Chairman’s proposal.


February Washington E-Bulletin

February 2, 2015

The February issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is available now on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE
Vol. 2015, Issue 02

A LOOK AHEAD

ACT NOW

AALL IN THE STATES

ROUNDUP AND REVIEW


On Data Privacy Day, ECPA Stands Frozen in Time

January 28, 2015

By Elizabeth Holland

Today is Data Privacy Day, the annual event aimed at drawing attention to the importance of protecting privacy on the Internet. And guess what? The law that protects the privacy of your online communications and that of your library patrons from government intrusion, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), has still not been updated since it was authored in 1986.

ECPA was passed into law at time when people did not have laptops, did not utilize the cloud, or did not generally use email. Of course, lawmakers did not anticipate the technological advancements of the decades to come, let alone establish the appropriate protections needed to accommodate them. How could they have? The rules governing your online privacy are older than the Web itself. While technology has advanced at a rapid pace, electronic privacy law has remained at a standstill. Without reform, the kind of electronic communications and records that are common today— think any email, Facebook posts, search history, cloud computing documents, cell phone location information, or text messages older than 180 days— can be freely seized without a warrant.

In the last Congress, efforts to update ECPA received broad, bipartisan support, but ultimately stalled. The House bill, the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 1852), even gained a majority 272 co-sponsors, but was never awarded floor time because one federal agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, worked to keep the bill from coming to fruition.

We anticipate last year’s sponsors will introduce their legislation to update ECPA shortly, and we have urged members the Senate and House to move swiftly to advance the bills. It has been 29 years since ECPA was enacted. Reform is long overdue and there is no better time to focus on the need to protect individuals’ privacy online than on Data Privacy Day.


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