Today, at the start of the American Library Association’s Midwinter (ALA) Meeting in Chicago, the Association announced the launch of “Got E-rate?,” a new initiative that encourages library leaders to apply for internet discounts as part of the national E-rate program. The initiative is a response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent overhaul of the E-rate program, which included adding $1.5 billion to the annual available funding. This infusion and other program changes provide new opportunities for libraries to radically rethink their broadband networks and begin to make gains toward the broadband speeds necessary for today’s and tomorrow’s library services.
In the coming weeks, ALA, in collaboration with the Public Library Association (PLA), state library agencies, and other partners, will launch a series of E-rate resources, including communications, education, practical tools and technical support for librarians who are interested in applying for E-rate funding.
“ALA invested significant resources over the past 18 months to ensure the FCC’s reform efforts would benefit libraries,” said ALA President Courtney Young in a statement. “Due in large part to this advocacy, the program now supports more options for libraries that lack sufficient broadband capacity to design and maintain broadband networks to meet their communities’ growing broadband needs. The changes also include specific funding to upgrade wireless networks. But our work is far from over. ALA is redoubling its efforts to ensure libraries are fully prepared to take advantage of the “new” E-rate program.
“ALA strongly encourages libraries to apply for E-rate funds,” Young added. “If you already apply, it’s time to think bigger and plan for the long-term broadband growth of your library. If you have not applied in recent years or at all, it’s time to think anew about the program. There are more options for increasing broadband capacity and options that can be tailored to the specific needs of your library—whether rural, suburban, or urban. The FCC opened the door for libraries, and it is up to us to walk through it.
“ALA urges libraries to take a fresh look at the E-rate program,” said Young. “The majority of libraries have a long way to go before they have the broadband capacity they need. In the next five years, ALA aims to double the amount of E-rate funding going to libraries.”
In the next coming months, ALA will work collaboratively with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and the Public Library Association (PLA) to support libraries with applying for the E-rate program.
“Along with ALA, COSLA will be urging libraries to take a fresh look at the E-rate program,” said COSLA President Kendall Wiggin. “The new E-rate program is a victory for our communities, but to make it meaningful, libraries must apply.”
“The FCC’s re-engineering of the E-rate program has created important new opportunities for libraries to build and transform the cutting-edge broadband networks necessary to support all our patrons including–students of all ages, business owners, and jobseekers—in local libraries,” said PLA President Larry Neal.
To receive alerts on ALA’s involvement in E-rate, follow the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) on Twitter at @OITP and use the Twitter hashtag #libraryerate. More information is available at: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/goterate.