ALA Washington Office: First-round rules for broadband stimulus program hinder libraries

Contact: Jenni Terry
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Library Association Washington sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling Friday stating that the first-round Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) to implement the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) raises significant concerns and creates hurdles for libraries considering applying for broadband funding. 

According to the ALA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) gives libraries, as anchor institutions, priority, but the NOFA in effect de-prioritizes libraries and discourages them from applying for funding in a number of ways.

The application of the unserved and underserved limitations to libraries essentially disqualifies a significant proportion from applying for broadband infrastructure funds.  Libraries located in urban and suburban communities will be unduly penalized even though they are well-positioned to provide Internet access via broadband connectivity to everyone in their community. 

While the ALA regards the ARRA as an invaluable opportunity to build out high-speed, future-proof connectivity (such as fiber-optic technology) to all public libraries in the country, the NOFA raises considerable barriers to the realization of this vision.  Specifically, the NOFA discourages the promotion and prioritization of high-speed connectivity by adopting a single definition of broadband (768 kbps download) that is simply inadequate for libraries — now and in the future. In addition, investment in high-speed connectivity (such as fiber and other technologies), is not favorably supported by the NOFA’s current scoring system. 

The library community is hopeful that subsequent NOFA funding opportunities will take into consideration this contradiction in the ARRA’s intent and the NOFA’s application.

“Inclusion of libraries in the build-out of the broadband infrastructure will contribute towards a more cohesive and efficient network infrastructure for America’s communities and help ensure that high-speed broadband will reach the greatest percentage of the population,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office, states in the letter.

The ALA’s letter to Strickling can be viewed here.

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About Jenni Terry

Jenni Terry was a press officer with the Washington Office.

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