Libraries, E-rate, and ALA featured at TPRC

The scene at the 2014 Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference. Photo by TPRC.

The scene at the 2014 Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference. Photo by TPRC.

Last Friday, the American Library Association (ALA) made its first appearance (and through a whole panel no less) at the Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference (TPRC), the most prestigious conference in information policy. The telecommunications policy topic, not surprisingly, that has dominated our time for over the past year: E-rate.

The panel “900 Questions: A Case Study of Multistakeholder Policy Advocacy through the E-rate Lens” was moderated by Larra Clark, director of the Program on Networks for ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). The panel featured Jon Peha, professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and former chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation and a former Attorney-Advisor at the FCC. Rounding out the panel were Marijke Visser, ALA’s own Empress of E-rate and OITP Director Alan S. Inouye.

The panel served as a great opportunity for ALA to cohesively consider the extensive effort on the current proceeding that we’ve expended since June 2013. Of course, it was rather a challenge to pack it in 90 minutes!

Marjike Visser, Larra Clark, and Alan S. Inouye focused on the multiple key tradeoffs that arose in the past year. Supporting the FCC proposal that led to the first order, even though it focused on Wi-Fi—important, but not ALA’s top priority, which is broadband to libraries (and schools)—based on the promise of a second order focusing on broadband to the building. We worked hard to stand with our long-standing coalitions, while not in full agreement with some coalition positions. The panel explored tensions with: school versus library interests and the importance of both differentiation and collaboration; rural versus urban concerns; near-term versus long-term considerations; and the risks and rewards of creative disruption.

Tom Koutsky and Jon Peha provided context and analysis beyond the library lens. The E-rate proceeding emanated from a multi-year process that began with the National Broadband Plan and investments in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Koutsky and Peha illuminated the oft-hidden complexity behind advocate groups, who on the surface may seem to represent similar interests or organizations, but in fact engage in considerable conflict and compromise among themselves. They also discussed the challenges with new stakeholder entrants and their competing interests, both in the short run and long run.

This TPRC session is an important milestone for OITP. The Policy Revolution! Initiative is predicated upon reaching decision makers and influencers outside of the library community who affect critical public policies of interest to our community. Thus, increasing the ALA and library presence at key venues such as TPRC represents important progress for us as we continue to work through re-imagining and re-engineering national public policy advocacy. Also in the September-October timeframe, OITP representatives will present at the conferences of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), NTCA—the Rural Broadband Association, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).

The E-rate saga continues: ALA will submit comments in the most recent round—due tonight (September 15th)—and will submit further comments in the weeks ahead, as well as continue our discussions with the commissioners and staff of the FCC and our key contacts on Capitol Hill.

Posted in E-Rate, Events, OITP, Telecommunications Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Reminder: Social Security webinar this week

Photo by Jessamyn West

Photo by Jessamyn West via flickr

Reminder: The American Library Association (ALA) is encouraging librarians to participate in “My SSA,” a free webinar that will teach participants how to use My Social Security (MySSA), the online Social Security resource.

Do you know how to help your patrons locate information on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security? Presented by leaders and members of the development team of MySSA, this session will provide attendees with an overview of MySSA. In addition to receiving benefits information in print, the Social Security Administration is encouraging librarians to create an online MySSA account to view and track benefits.

Attendees will learn about viewing earnings records and receiving instant estimates of their future Social Security benefits. Those already receiving benefits can check benefit and payment information and manage their benefits.

Speakers include:

  • Maria Artista-Cuchna, Acting Associate Commissioner, External Affairs
  • Kia Anderson, Supervisory Social Insurance Specialist
  • Arnoldo Moore, Social Insurance Specialist
  • Alfredo Padilia Jr., Social Insurance Specialist
  • Diandra Taylor, Management Analyst

Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Register for the free event

If you cannot attend this live session, a recorded archive will be available. To view past webinars also hosted collaboratively with iPAC, please visit Lib2Gov.org.

Posted in Events, Government Information, OGR, Public Libraries Tagged with: , ,

Free webinar: Understanding Social Security

Photo by the Knight Foundation

Photo by the Knight Foundation

Do you know how to help your patrons locate information on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security? The American Library Association (ALA) is encouraging librarians to participate in “My SSA,” a free webinar that will teach participants how to use My Social Security (MySSA), the online Social Security resource.

Presented by leaders and members of the development team of MySSA, this session will provide attendees with an overview of MySSA. In addition to receiving benefits information in print, the Social Security Administration is encouraging librarians to create an online MySSA account to view and track benefits.

Attendees will learn about viewing earnings records and receiving instant estimates of their future Social Security benefits. Those already receiving benefits can check benefit and payment information and manage their benefits.

Speakers include:

  • Maria Artista-Cuchna, Acting Associate Commissioner, External Affairs
  • Kia Anderson, Supervisory Social Insurance Specialist
  • Arnoldo Moore, Social Insurance Specialist
  • Alfredo Padilia Jr., Social Insurance Specialist
  • Diandra Taylor, Management Analyst

Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Register for the free event

If you cannot attend this live session, a recorded archive will be available. To view past webinars also hosted collaboratively with iPAC, please visit Lib2Gov.org.

Posted in Events, Government Information, OGR, Webinars Tagged with: , , ,

Idaho library welcomes FCC Commissioner

Idaho Library

Idaho Library

The article below comes from Ann Joslin, who is the Idaho State Librarian and president of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA).

On August 19, 2014, Idaho had the privilege of hosting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at LinkIDAHO’s Broadband Summit in Boise. He was the keynote speaker and moderated a panel discussion on “Filling the Gaps in Broadband Delivery in Rural and Remote Areas.” His visit also provided an opportunity to showcase Idaho public library services with a trip to the Ada Community Library’s Lake Hazel Branch.

Girls with makerspace.Director Mary DeWalt and her staff prepared a brief fact sheet(pdf) with a general description of the library district and details of the broadband access and services they provide. We toured Lake Hazel’s activity room where their LSTA-funded Make-It materials (building kits, robotics, 3D printer) are housed, and the Commissioner could see several works-in-progress. In addition to a Lego robot and an FM radio were repair parts for a 3-D printer with plastic that had melted in a hot car—all teen group projects. This prompted the Commissioner to describe his view of the roles libraries play today, from traditional to community center to public access technology provider, and serving all age groups. We certainly agree on that point, and Lake Hazel is a perfect example of this!

The conversation was informal and ranged from local clientele, programming, and Internet capacity to statewide broadband capacity challenges. The staff described a variety of ways adults are using the library that involve computers and technology, such as downloading media, social networking, and workforce development. They have also seen an increasing number of parents come with their children to build something together using the Make-It tools.

In light of the FCC’s current order on E-rate modernization, Commissioner O’Rielly referenced his opposition to focusing the one-time $2 billion on Wi-Fi upgrades (internal connections). In their filings, both COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library Agencies) and ALA placed priority on bringing scalable and affordable broadband to more libraries, as well as increasing funding for internal connections (see filings here and here). The Commissioner granted that he was on the short end of that FCC vote, and expressed confidence that the library community can develop a better formula for distributing E-rate funds in the future.

The Lake Hazel Branch is illustrative of several challenges common to Idaho public libraries:

  • Wi-Fi can’t be upgraded until they have more bandwidth to the library door.
  • Fiber runs along a nearby street, but they can’t afford the one-time cost of bringing it to the library door. As a result, they’re connected via copper at only 20 Mbps, which is inadequate bandwidth most of the time today and will only become more problematic as broadband needs continue to grow.
  • After school is always a big draw on their Internet capacity, and community members use the library’s access in an increasing variety of ways. At Ada Community Library, that includes online video visits with inmates of the county jail—the only form of visitation now permitted.
Ann Joslin

Ann Joslin

The FCC is an important regulatory agency for the public library community, and one whose policies and procedures we need to better understand. We appreciated Commissioner O’Rielly’s visit to the Lake Hazel Branch Library as a way for him to see first-hand the successes and challenges public libraries face on a daily basis and the impact that E-rate modernization will have on their ability to deliver their broadband-based services. Many thanks to Larra Clark, director of the ALA program on Networks, for contacting his office to suggest the visit.

Posted in OITP, Public Libraries, Telecommunications Tagged with: , ,

Chris Harris appointed OITP Fellow for youth and technology initiatives

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Today, we welcome Chris Harris to his latest role for the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Chris will serve as Fellow for the emerging OITP program on Children and Youth Initiatives.

In his other life, Chris is the director of the School Library System for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, an educational services agency supporting the libraries of 22 small, rural districts in western New York. Most recently, Chris integrated his personal interest in gaming with his passion for education and non-traditional learning and is editorial director of Play Play Learn.

Chris brings with him to OITP a long history of out of the box thinking when it comes to libraries—especially school libraries—and innovation in learning and library services. He was a participant in the first American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leaders program in 2007 and honored as a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2008. Chris also writes a regular technology column for School Library Journal talking about “The Next Big Thing.” Chris has been deeply involved with the American Library Association (ALA) Digital Content Working Group, overseeing the E-Content blog and he just finished his term as Chair of the OITP Advisory Committee. In addition to claiming him for OITP, Chris continues to be active with committee work on behalf of school libraries as a member of the Library Advisory Committee for OITP’s Policy Revolution! initiative.

Needless to say, we at OITP are thrilled to have Chris join us as a Fellow. Chris is in on the ground floor as OITP develops its new program and will be integral in shaping it as well as helping to coordinate with ALA’s youth divisions, the American Association for School Librarians, the Association for Library Service to Children, and the Young Adult Library Services Association.

“Since OITP began looking at children and youth issues, Chris has not only brought his own expertise and interest to our discussions, he challenges all of us to view library services for young people in the broadest possible light,” said OITP Advisory Committee Chair, Dan Lee. “Chris has helped make it clear that OITP’s mission clearly intersects with the growing understanding inside and outside the library profession that youth and information technology policy issues need to be, and are front and center in public policy conversations.”

We are not shy about putting our Fellows to work (immediately). As Fellow, among other things, Chris will:

  • Provide policy advice for advocating improved library and public access to information services for children and youth;
  • Draft and/or review text for a variety of documents that include comments to federal agencies, OITP publications, and articles for media outlets, and;
  • Participate in planning meetings with ALA members and other stakeholders.

Personally, I am very happy to have Chris join the force of experts we have on hand as I will be working closely with Chris in the coming months to further define OITP’s work in this area. I already have a very long To Do list labeled, “Check with Chris.”

Posted in OITP, School Libraries, Washington Office News Tagged with: ,

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