Watch it live: Obama to sign workforce bill

After years of inaction, legislation is finally moving forward that acknowledges the ways that libraries work to help the public gain important employment skills and find jobs. Today, President Barack Obama will sign the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bill that will open access to federal funding support to public libraries for effective job training and job search programs. President Obama will sign the bill into law from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. ET in the White House Oval Office in Washington, D.C. (watch the signing live).

American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young applauded the presidential signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

As the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes libraries as One-Stop partners and includes adult education and literacy programs offered at libraries as statewide employment and training activities. Additionally, the bill provides funding support for 21st-century digital readiness training programs that help library users learn how to use technology to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.

Today America, libraries and the people who come to us for assistance have cause for renewed optimism. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act recognizes that libraries are often the first places Americans seek when they need job training or job search assistance. We’re proud of what libraries have accomplished with meager resources over the last several years. Now, with the support of this legislation, we look forward to a brighter future for the American workforce libraries have served for more than a century.

The American Library Association would like to thank Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) for their long time efforts to include libraries in this legislation.

Posted in Legislation, Library Advocacy, OGR Tagged with: , , ,

ALA, ACRL file network neutrality comments with FCC

Today the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt the legally enforceable network neutrality rules necessary to fulfill library missions and serve communities nationwide. The ALA and ACRL joined nine other national higher education and library organizations in filing joint public comments (pdf) with the FCC.

The joint comments build on the ALA resolution adopted by Council at the 2014 Annual Conference and align with the 2014 legislative agenda developed by ACRL. They also provide greater detail for the network neutrality principles released July 10 and suggest ways to strengthen the FCC’s proposed rules (released May 15, 2014) to preserve an open internet for libraries, higher education and the communities they serve. For instance, the FCC should:

  • explicitly apply open Internet rules to public broadband Internet access service provided to libraries, institutions of higher education and other public interest organizations;
  • prohibit “paid prioritization;”
  • adopt rules that are technology-neutral and apply equally to fixed and mobile services;
  • adopt a re-defined “no-blocking” rule that bars public broadband Internet access providers from interfering with the consumer’s choice of content, applications, or services;
  • further strengthen disclosure rules;
  • charge the proposed ombudsman with protecting the interests of libraries and higher education institutions and other public interest organizations, in addition to consumers and small businesses;
  • continue to recognize that libraries and institutions of higher education operate private networks or engage in end user activities not subject to open Internet rules; and
  • preserve the unique capacities of the Internet as an open platform by exercising its well-established sources of authority to implement open Internet rules, based on Title II reclassification or an “Internet reasonable” standard under Section 706.

The joint comments mark another definitive statement on behalf of all types of libraries and the communities we serve, but are simply one more step in a long journey toward our goal. There’s more to be done, and librarians can make their voices heard in a number of ways:

  1. Email to the ALA Washington Office (lclark[at]alawash[dot]org) examples of Internet Service Provider (ISP) slowdowns, lost quality of service relative to your subscribed ISP speeds, and any other harm related to serving your community needs. Alternately, please share examples of potential harm if we do not preserve the open internet (e.g., impact on cloud-based services and/or ability to disseminate digitized or streaming content on an equal footing with commercial content providers that otherwise might pay for faster “lanes” for their content over library content).
  2. Ask your board to support and/or adopt the network neutrality principles. Several people in attendance at the Annual Conference program on the topic suggested this, and the ALA Washington Office will develop and share a template for this purpose in the coming weeks.
Posted in Network Neutrality Tagged with: ,

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks on your libraries, E-rate and calls for improvement

During the ALA Annual Conference that wrapped  up a few weeks ago, the Washington Office secured a video from the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler. We are pleased to share four clips from the video for use in your own advocacy work on the importance of high-capacity broadband and the E-rate program for your libraries and the communities you serve.

“The staff at the FCC is appreciative of the commitment ALA has shown to engaging in the modernization process while also remaining staunch advocates for their members. We hope the Chairman’s message is helpful to all of the work you do on behalf of your libraries,” Gigi Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs to Chairman Wheeler told us.

In these videos, the Chairman speaks about the changing nature of libraries today, emphasizing the importance of providing access to digital resources, technology, and free public Wi-Fi. He states

Libraries are where large numbers of Americans go to get online. And it’s not just to research information. Libraries are where Americans go to apply for their VA benefits, or apply for their healthcare benefits, or apply for jobs… Put another way, as I have learned, libraries complete Education, jump start Employment and Entrepreneurship, Empower people of all ages and backgrounds and foster community Engagement—“The 5 E’s of Libraries.

The four clips take listeners through:

  • the critical support libraries provide to their communities—including education for K12 students;
  • the Commission’s commitment to “doing more for libraries;”
  • how the E-rate Modernization proceeding is set to address challenges libraries have in increasing broadband capacity to and within the library; and
  • a specific call on ALA to continue its partnership with the Commission to make the E-rate program work for libraries.

In addition to the short clips, we are pleased to provide the full transcript (pdf) to the Chairman’s remarks during the video for Annual Conference.

ALA has engaged deeply with the Commission on the E-rate proceeding and expects to participate fully in the coming weeks as we move from the order adopted on July 11 (not publicly released as of this writing) into the next phase of this multi-step process. We take heed of the Chairman’s call to action:

So my request to ALA is simple – let’s work together to get this process in motion starting now. Let’s make some meaningful improvements to the program for libraries starting now. And let’s keep working together over the coming months to address those issues we don’t tackle in this order as part of an ongoing process to make the E-rate program work as well as it possibly can for libraries.

Posted in E-Rate, Library Advocacy Tagged with: , , ,

No amendment offered to limit FCC’s funding ability on E-rate.

The ALA Washington is getting word from the Hill that a possible amendment to the House Financial Services Appropriations bill that would limit the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) ability to increase funding to the Federal E-rate programs has been withdrawn. Please see Monday’s District Dispatch post.

Sources in the House Democratic Leadership tell ALA that the majority chose not to proceed with the amendment due to widespread opposition from the library and school community.

Thank you to everyone that made calls to their House Member to defeat this amendment.

Posted in E-Rate, Legislation, Library Advocacy

President called by ALA and partners to again threaten veto of privacy-hostile “cybersecurity” info sharing legislation advancing in Senate

As recently reported, Senate Intelligence Committee “markup” and approval of the privacy-hostile Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA), S. 2588, was delayed until after Congress’ brief July 4 recess . . . but not for long.  Again meeting in secret, the Committee approved a somewhat modified (but insufficiently improved) version of the bill on July 10.

Like three other similar bills introduced in the past four  years, CISA is intended to head off and remediate hacking and other threats to communications and government electronic networks by authorizing private communications companies to share evidence of those “cybersecurity threats” with multiple arms of the federal government.  To enable and encourage such reporting, however, it also effectively immunizes those companies against any legal action that might be brought against them by individual customers whose private information is disclosed without their permission.

So what’s wrong with preventing and blunting cyber-attacks?  Nothing, except that CISA and its predecessors foster that laudable objective in the most overbroad way possible without building in important, entirely reasonable and wholly achievable safeguards for Americans’ privacy.  As ALA’s coalition partners at the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation have pointed out in new analyses of the bill, as passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, CISA:

  • compels military involvement in previously civilian cybersecurity programs by requiring that cyberthreat information be instantly shared with the Department of Defense, NSA and Director of National Intelligence;
  • so broadly defines key terms like “cybersecurity purpose” and “cybersecurity threat” as to maximize threats to individual privacy rather than minimize them;
  • disturbingly authorizes the use of “countermeasures” against perceived threat sources;
  • makes no effort to effectively limit the amount of consumers’ personally identifiable information swept up in companies’ threat reports;
  • permits companies to monitor their customers accounts and activities to a much greater extent than current law permits; and
  • gives companies that share information virtually blanket immunity for any harm caused their customer as a result of unjustified or excessive sharing, or of “countermeasures” taken against them improperly or erroneously.

With CISA now reportedly supported not just by the intelligence community but by powerful interests in the banking, securities and other industries, ALA and its coalition partners are concerned that it could be among the few bills that the Senate actually takes up in the waning days of the current (pre-August break) legislative session and the current Congress, which is likely to adjourn not long after Labor Day until after the November 2014 mid-term elections.  Accordingly, we and our partners yesterday delivered a letter to President Obama calling on him to publicly indicate that he will veto CISA, or any similarly overbroad and dangerously imbalanced “cybersecurity” legislation that fails to much more fully protect all of our personal privacy.  The President issued such a statement in 2012 regarding similar legislation.

ALA and its partners will also continue, of course, to fight CISA in the Senate and it’s entirely likely that we’ll need your help.  Sign up now to learn what you can do when the call comes.

Posted in Cybersecurity, Legislation, Library Advocacy, OGR, Privacy & Surveillance, Washington Office News

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