Following several months of intensive review and research, the American Library Association (ALA) asked (pdf) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday to accelerate deployment of the high-capacity broadband needed to serve students and learners of all ages through our nation’s libraries and schools. Monday’s filing aligns with President Obama’s ConnectED goal to connect America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years.
The ALA calls for new E-rate funding to jumpstart and sustain high-capacity broadband connections that support digital learning and economic development through libraries and schools. The current funding cap on the program consistently falls far short of meeting basic demand for broadband -enabled services, and technology trends clearly show needs and future capabilities for libraries and schools only are growing.
“The nation is facing a sea change in what robust technology infrastructure can enable, and libraries are perfectly positioned to light the way forward and ensure no one is excluded from digital opportunity,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling.
To address this, ALA supports a two-pronged approach:
- New temporary funding is needed to support the build-out of high-capacity broadband networks and especially provide increased support for libraries with the lowest levels of broadband connectivity.
- A permanent increase in funding is not only justified but is a sound investment for the country.
ALA’s comments also encourage the FCC to:
- Provide additional E-rate discounts for remote rural libraries that often confront the greatest broadband costs;
- Streamline the E-rate’s application review process to incent consortium purchasing and replace E-rate program procurement rules with those of the applicable locality or state;
- Lower barriers to deployment of dark and lit fiber and ownership of wide area networks when they are the most cost-effective ways to deliver high-capacity broadband to libraries and schools;
- Work in cooperation with the library and schools communities to develop scalable bandwidth targets and benchmarks for measuring progress against these targets; and
- Eliminate the Form 470 and allow applicants to file an “evergreen” Form 471 for multi-year contracts.
“The nation is facing a sea change in what robust technology infrastructure can enable, and libraries are perfectly positioned to light the way forward and ensure no one is excluded from digital opportunity,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “America’s libraries must move from basic connectivity to high-capacity broadband so our students and our communities can compete globally. The E-rate program is essential for fulfilling this digital promise.”