Today, the American Library Association filed reply comments (pdf) with the Federal Communications Commission to swiftly reform the federal E-rate program so that our nation’s learners are connected to high-capacity broadband through libraries and schools (read the full ALA statement).
“High-capacity broadband drives innovation and underpins modern library services in public and school libraries,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “As we make a massive transition from physical to digital collections, boost wireless access and deploy digital media creation labs, a robust and future-focused E-rate program is vital for supporting our nation’s learners. We cannot afford to dumb-down services due to bandwidth limitations.”
The average public library has about the same connectivity as the average home–limiting libraries’ ability to serve communities’ education, employment and e-government needs. With an average of 16.4 public computers and more than 40 percent of libraries with maximum internet speeds of less than 4 Mbps speeds or less, we are falling behind.
ALA proposes two limited-term programs that build on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative and address the greatest barriers to increasing bandwidth:
- ConnectUS would jumpstart high-capacity connections to libraries and schools where such broadband is not currently available.
- Fast Internet Networks for All Libraries (FINAL) is a pilot proposal for communities where high-capacity connections are available, but the library lacks the funding and/or technical expertise to realize major broadband upgrades.
“The ALA is gratified by the outpouring of comments in this proceeding highlighting the importance of the E-rate program to providing the educational technology our students and learners need for 21st century digital opportunity,” said Marijke Visser, assistant director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy.
“We also note the broad recognition that demand vastly outpaces current available funding. With all Commissioners now in place, the FCC should not delay in making necessary reforms, especially considering Chairman Wheeler’s strong support for the E-rate program.”