Today ALA filed comments (pdf) before the FCC in response to a Notice of Inquiry on the development of a national broadband plan (as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). In our comments, we argue that America’s libraries are uniquely situated to deliver on the Commission’s goals for the plan.
Libraries are the premier public computing centers in America’s communities, providing access to online education, job searching and skills training, government services and more. Further, libraries serve as information hubs for their communities, and in areas where a compelling business case for broadband deployment is difficult to make, libraries serve as “community anchor institutions,” stimulating development that helps entire communities. The key role of libraries should be recognized and supported in the national broadband plan.
However, libraries face barriers to truly fulfilling their promise as key community broadband institutions. First, libraries are facing a capacity crisis. We urge the commission to support a “fiber to the library” program to help libraries get the future-proof connectivity they need. Second, libraries face decreasing budgets, so programs like the federal E-rate are more important than ever. The Commission should reopen the question of how best to streamline and simplify the E-rate program.