ALA applauds legislation for increased Wi-Fi spectrum

Today, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Wi-Fi Innovation Act (S.424), which would help ensure that our nation’s libraries and their communities have access to the spectrum needed to meet growing demands for wireless access. The legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct a feasibility study on providing additional unlicensed spectrum in the upper 5Ghz spectrum band.Diverse kids around a laptop

“We welcome this bipartisan effort from Senators Rubio and Booker to improve access to the Internet,” said ALA President Courtney Young in a statement. “Libraries are first responders in providing information and services for people across the country, and robust Wi-Fi is an increasingly important library service. By offering no-fee public access to the Internet via wireless connections, libraries serve as community technology hubs that enable digital opportunity and full participation in the nation’s economy.”

Public libraries are the most common public Wi-Fi access point for African-Americans and Latinos—with roughly one-third of these communities using public library Wi-Fi. This is true for 23 percent of white people, who list school as their top public Wi-Fi spot. Virtually all (98 percent) public libraries now offer Wi-Fi, up from 18 percent a decade ago.

“There is increasing demand to support the growing universe of wireless devices and services, and making more unlicensed spectrum available is critical,” Young concluded.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH), and cosponsored by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

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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