ALA files comments on Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, RUS program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Jenni Terry

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Library Association (ALA) today submitted comments (pdf) to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), defining the position of libraries on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the RUS program.

“The ARRA presents an unprecedented opportunity for libraries to achieve high-speed broadband connectivity, and our comments firmly establish libraries as a central player in the programs’ goal to make the opportunities of broadband connectivity available to all Americans,” Alan Inouye, director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), said.

America’s libraries — over 100,000 strong — need high-speed broadband to help community residents conduct job searches, develop their careers, complete school homework and research, support small business creation and development, use online government resources, and perform many other facets of daily life.

Unfortunately, high-speed broadband is often lacking in the nation’s libraries, which is the primary source for no-fee Internet access. Thus, the broadband initiatives of the ARRA represent an extraordinary opportunity to provide the necessary high-speed broadband to America’s libraries and other key community service organizations, in rural, suburban and urban locales.

The comments underscore the essential role that libraries play as the premier public computing center and as information hubs in their communities, while also making a compelling case for a nationwide “fiber to the library.”

Additional points asserted in ALA’s comments include the following:

  • State priorities deserve some deference, but NTIA should also allow funding for multi-state applications, some in-state applications exclusive of a state’s strategy and national-level applications
  • Most libraries have significant “financial need.” The 20 percent match will be a major challenge for most libraries, given the severe economic downturn, and so accommodations are necessary.
  • Libraries should be included in broadband mapping, and grant recipients should be required to include community service organizations in mapping efforts.

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