It must be “FCC month” at the ALA

FCC BuildingWell, yes, almost any month could be “FCC month” with the number of proceedings that affect libraries and our communities, but September has been particularly busy. Monday we entered the next round of E-rate activity with comments in response to the Federal Communication Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (emphasis added), and closed out a record-setting public comment period in relation to promoting and protecting the Open Internet with two public filings.

I’ll leave it to Marijke to give the low-down on E-rate, but here’s a quick update on the network neutrality front:

ALA and the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) filed “reply” comments with a host of library and higher education allies to further detail our initial filing in July. We also joined with the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) to re-affirm that the FCC has legal authority to advance the Open Internet through Title II reclassification or a strong public interest standard under Section 706. This work is particularly important as most network neutrality advocates agree the “commercially reasonable” standard originally proposed by the FCC does not adequately preserve the culture and tradition of the internet as an open platform for free speech, learning, research and innovation.

For better or worse, these filings are just the most recent milestones in our efforts to support libraries’ missions to ensure equitable access to online information. Today the FCC is beginning to hold round tables related to network neutrality (which you can catch online at www.fcc.gov/live). ALA and higher education network neutrality counsel John Windhausen has been invited to participate in a roundtable on October 7 to discuss the “Internet-reasonable” standard we have proposed as a stronger alternative to the FCC’s “commercially reasonable” standard.

The Senate will take up the issue in a hearing today, including CDT President and CEO Nuala O’Connor. And a library voice will again be included in a network neutrality forum–this time with Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass speaking at a forum convened by Congresswoman Doris Matsui on September 24. Vermont State Librarian Martha Reid testified at a Senate field hearing in July, and Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke discussed network neutrality with Senator Ron Wyden at part of an event in May.

This month ALA also filed comments in support of filings from the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, State E-rate Coordinators Alliance (SECA) and NTCA–the Broadband Coalition calling for eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) in the Connect America Fund to connect anchor institutions at higher speeds than those delivered to residents. Going further, ALA proposes that ETCs receiving CAF funding must serve each public library in its service territory at connection speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload. Access and affordability are the top two barriers to increasing library broadband capacity, so both the Connect America Fund and the E-rate program are important components of increasing our ability to meet our public missions. AND we presented at the Telecommunication Policy Research Conference! Whew.

Buckle your seat belts and stay tuned, because “FCC Month” is only half over!

About Larra Clark

As Deputy Director of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), Larra’s responsibilities include overall management of OITP’s telecommunications portfolio and day-to-day management of America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) projects and those in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she served as the project manager in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics for three years.

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