Congress, FCC listening to libraries on broadband

As the ALA Washington Office continues our ongoing strategy to inform Congress and the NTIA of the benefits of investing in broadband stimulus funding for libraries, we’re seeing very public evidence that our message is resonating.

On September 17, the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing titled, “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.”

The hearing — the first since Julius Genachowski was named Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — examined the views of the FCC Commissioners on a wide array of issues, including the progress of the national broadband plan, challenges in creating a national public safety broadband network and wireless competition.

Rep. Boucher (D-VA) drew FCC Chairman Genachowski’s attention to the need for extraordinarily high bandwidth extending to libraries and communities across the United States. He continued by recognizing libraries as the intellectual and social hub of communities and public libraries, in particular, as the source for free Internet access. He explained that because of the types of content accessed and services provided by libraries by providing Internet access, they require large bandwidth. He went on to point out that when you have a very high capacity broadband line extending to the library, that line can then be a jumping off point for last-mile applications for local business and residents.

In response, Chairman Genachowski explained he understood the overriding goal of the national broadband strategy is the goal of broadband access for all Americans. Specifically, with respect to libraries, Mr. Genachowski pointed to the E-rate program as one Congress and the Commission’s great successes that connect schools and libraries. He continued by explaining that schools and libraries, as strategic institutions (as they have been referred FCC workshops), are being considered as part of in developing a national broadband strategy, and in particular continuing to work on and discuss how we are ensuring these institutions have access to a robust pipe.

Also on September 17, Reps. Eshoo (D-CA), Markey (D-MA) and Matsui (D-CA) sent a letter to Assistant Secretary Strickling at the NTIA noting the essential nature of anchor institutions to providing broadband access. The letter echoed comments recently made by Reps. Eshoo and Matsui during a September 10, 2009 House subcommittee hearing that emphasized the importance of libraries and other anchor institutions in advancing the goals of stimulating broadband adoption and using Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) funding strategically.

With the first-round Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) deadline behind us and the second round to be announced in the coming months, this recent pro-library, anchor institutions support is encouraging. We will continue to work to ensure libraries are at the center of all discussions and initiatives on national broadband build-out.

Corey Williams
Associate Director, Office of Government Relations

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