Today, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler held a press call to preview the draft E-rate order that will be circulated at the Commission later this week. The FCC invited Marijke Visser, associate director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy, to participate in the call. ALA President Courtney Young released a statement in response to the FCC activity, applauding the momentum:
ALA has worked extremely hard on this proceeding to move the broadband bar for libraries so that communities across the nation can more fully benefit from the E’s of Librariesâ„¢. That is, as Chairman Wheeler recognizes, libraries provide critical services to our communities across the nation relating to Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Engagement and Empowerment.
Of course, the extent to which communities benefit from these services depends on the broadband capacity our libraries have. Unfortunately, for all too many libraries, the bandwidth needed is either not available at all or it is prohibitively expensive.
But what Chairman Wheeler described today will go a long way towards changing the broadband dynamic. With support and guidance from our Senior Counsel, Alan Fishel, ALA stood fast behind our recommendations through many difficult rounds of discussions. After today we have every indication that ALA’s unwavering advocacy and determination over the past year and a half will add up to a series of changes for the E-rate program that will provide desperately needed increased broadband capacity for urban, suburban, and rural libraries across the country.
ALA applauds Chairman Wheeler for his strong leadership throughout the modernization proceeding in identifying a clear path to closing the broadband gap for libraries and schools and ensuring a sustainable E-rate program. The critical increase in permanent funding that the Chairman described during today’s press call will help ensure that libraries can maintain the broadband upgrades we know the vast majority of our libraries are anxious to make. Moreover, the program changes that were referenced today–on top of those the Commission adopted in July–coupled with more funding is without a doubt a win-win for libraries and most importantly for the people in the communities they serve.
Larry Neal, president of the Public Library Association, a division of ALA, and director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library (MI), also commented on the FCC draft E-rate order.
“The well-connected library opens up literally thousands of opportunities for the people who walk through the doors of their local library,” said Neal. “Libraries are with you from the earliest years with family apps for literacy, through the school years with STEM learning labs, to collaborative workspaces and information resources for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the next generation of innovators. This should be the story for every library and could be if they had the capacity they needed.”