ALA voice to join FCC Open Internet roundtable

FCC ImageJohn Windhausen, network neutrality counsel to the American Library Association (ALA) and president of Telepoly Consulting, will represent libraries and higher education institutions Tuesday as a panelist for an Open Internet roundtable discussion hosted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Windhausen will advocate for strong net neutrality principles during the panel “Construction of Legally Sustainable Rules” of the roundtable “Internet Openness and the Law,” which takes place at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 7, 2014. During the panel discussion, Windhausen will explore ways that the FCC can use its Section 706 authority with an “Internet-reasonable” standard that would recognize and support the Internet ecosystem and the Internet as an open platform for free speech, learning, research and innovation.

ALA, along with other higher education and library organizations, affirmed the critical importance of network neutrality to fulfilling our public interest missions and outlined the case for an Internet-reasonable standard in its filings (pdf) in the Open Internet proceeding. The ALA also urged the FCC to use available legal authority to adopt strong, enforceable net neutrality rules in a joint letter (pdf) with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The roundtable is free, open to the public and will be streamed live. [Update: View video below]

Posted in Network Neutrality, OITP, Telecommunications Tagged with: , ,

Librarians won’t stay quiet about surveillance

Patriot Act protest.

Photo by KPBS

The Washington Post highlighted the library community’s efforts to protect the public from government intrusion or censorship in “Librarians won’t stay quiet about government surveillance,” a feature article published today. It has been a longstanding belief in the library community that the possibility of surveillance—whether directly or through access to records of speech, research and exploration—undermines a democratic society.

Washington Post writer Andrea Peterson states:

In September 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft called out the librarians. The American Library Association and civil liberties groups, he said, were pushing “baseless hysteria” about the controversial Patriot Act. He suggested that they were worried that spy agencies wanted to know “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.”

In the case of government surveillance, they are not shushing. They’ve been among the loudest voices urging freedom of information and privacy protections.

Edward Snowden’s campaign against the National Security Agency’s data collection program has energized this group once again. And a new call to action from the ALA’s president means their voices could be louder and more coordinated than ever.

Read more

Posted in Privacy & Surveillance Tagged with: ,

A quiet woo hoo moment at ALA’s Washington Office

I did not double check, but I think it’s safe to say that most of the last E-rate posts have mentioned somewhere “over the last year” or “about a year ago” or “beginning last summer.” So… Monday, we saw an inkling of the potential payoff for which we have been holding our collective breath for over a year, since the E-rate modernization proceeding began.

On Monday while we were putting the final touches on our reply comments (pdf) to the E-rate Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered remarks at the 2014 Education Technology Summit. The Chairman’s remarks clearly articulated what we have been hoping to hear since the adoption of the changes in the July Order and its Wi-Fi focus. For those of you following along closely, you know we have been advocating strongly for increasing the number of libraries that can report scalable, affordable high-capacity broadband to the building. While our strategy evolved in response to the changing dynamics in D.C. as well as through input from the numerous emails and calls and meetings with ALA’s E-rate Task Force and other library organizations, our goal remains unchanged. We know from more than a decade of research that the fundamental barriers libraries face in increasing broadband capacity are availability and affordability.

On Monday, the Chairman clearly articulated that addressing these barriers is the focus of this next phase of the E-rate modernization efforts:

We have updated the program to close the Wi-Fi gap. Next, we must close the Rural Fiber Gap. So, today, I would like to visit about the next steps in the evolution of the E-rate program. In particular I want to talk about two related issues that remain squarely before the Commission as we consider next steps in the E-rate modernization process: 1) closing the Rural Fiber Gap for schools and libraries, and 2) tackling the affordability challenge.

We know that with the majority of libraries still reporting speeds less than 10 Mbps, there is a long way to go before we can report the majority of libraries are closing in on the gigabit goal set by the Commission in July. And, we know that for most libraries the key to getting there is via a fiber connection regardless of locale.

Our comments also stress the “affordability gap” and we call on the Commission to address both simultaneously, knowing that for many libraries fiber (or other technology) may be in the vicinity of the library, but the monthly cost of service is more than the library can afford so the library ends up saying, “no thank you.” Whether it’s a library struggling along at 3 Mbps to provide video conferencing and distance education services in a rural community; an urban library maxing out every day at 3:00 when school lets out and patrons on their own devices or at the library computers are feeling the stress on the library’s network; or a suburban library planning a multi-media lab and holding work skills classes, we know that two thirds of all libraries want to upgrade to higher speeds. The Commission has clearly opened the door to see that these upgrades can be done through the E-rate program—and that the recurring costs are subsequently affordable.

I would say that over the last year (and leading up to this current proceeding from our earlier work related to the National Broadband Plan in 2010) we worked hard to turn the national emphasis on broadband access and adoption in favor of libraries. With regards to E-rate, we repeatedly asked the question, how should the E-rate program look in the 21st century so that it can best meet the needs of 21st century libraries? Ensuring libraries have the broadband capacity they need is one critical way to shape the program.

A long-standing issue for ALA has been to see the program adequately funded. Our comments ask the Commission to take up the funding challenge, knowing that upgrades will both require immediate investment and likely incur greater monthly costs for service. The data gathering by the Commission and by stakeholders (in addition to the careful review of current program spending, fine-tuning of eligible services, and encouraging economies of scale) will work as guide posts for determining future funding needs of the program. Chairman Wheeler clearly opened the funding door as well and we are confident that “right sizing” the fund for the long haul is firmly on the agenda.

All told, I think we are slowly exhaling. In part because we submitted the reply comments well before the midnight deadline, but really because while we have made some subtle gains over the course of the year’s work (and some not so subtle, perhaps), what we heard from the Chairman on Monday can be read as the Commission making good on its commitment to addressing the “to the library” issue.

There is quite a bit of distance between remarks made in a speech and a Commission order, but the Chairman set an agenda for the E-rate review and modernization and to date, has accomplished much of that agenda. Going from rulemaking to order is an example of the art of compromise and we look forward to helping shape the process. In June in Las Vegas, the E-rate stakes were pretty high. This October in D.C. they will be even higher, but before we deal the last hand, we can step back briefly and quietly say “woo hoo.”

Posted in E-Rate, OITP Tagged with: , , ,

Free webinar: Making the election connection

From federal funding to support for school librarians to net neutrality, 2015 will be a critical year for federal policies that impact libraries. We need to be working now to build the political relationships necessary to make sure these decisions benefit our community. Fortunately, the November elections provide a great opportunity to do so.

In a new free webinar hosted by the American Library Association (ALA) and Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance, leaders will discuss how all types of library supporters can legally engage during an election season, as well as what types of activities will have the most impact. Webinar participants will learn 10 quick and easy tactics, from social media to candidate forums that will help you take action right away. If you want to help protecting our library resources in 2015 and beyond, then this is the session for you. Register now as space is limited.

Webinar: Making the Election Connection
Date: Monday, October 6, 2014
Time: 2:00–2:30 p.m. EDT

The archived webinar will be emailed to District Dispatch subscribers.

Posted in Legislation, OGR Tagged with:

ALA launches educational 3D printing policy campaign

Progress in the Making ReporttThe American Library Association (ALA) today announced the launch of “Progress in the Making,” (pdf) a new educational campaign that will explore the public policy opportunities and challenges of 3D printer adoption by libraries. Today, the association released “Progress in the Making: An Introduction to 3D Printing and Public Policy,” a tip sheet that provides an overview of 3D printing, describes a number of ways libraries are currently using 3D printers, outlines the legal implications of providing the technology, and details ways that libraries can implement simple yet protective 3D printing policies in their own libraries.

“As the percentage of the nation’s libraries helping their patrons create new objects and structures with 3D printers continues to increase, the legal implications for offering the high-tech service in the copyright, patent, design and trade realms continues to grow as well,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. “We have reached a point in the evolution of 3D printing services where libraries need to consider developing user policies that support the library mission to make information available to the public. If the library community promotes practices that are smart and encourage creativity, it has a real chance to guide the direction of the public policy that takes shape around 3D printing in the coming years.”

Over the next coming months, ALA will release a white paper and a series of tip sheets that will help the library community better understand and adapt to the growth of 3D printers, specifically as the new technology relates to intellectual property law and individual liberties.

This tip sheet is the product of collaboration between the Public Library Association (PLA), the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and United for Libraries, and coordinated by OITP Information Policy Analyst Charlie Wapner. View the tip sheet (pdf).

Posted in OITP Tagged with: , , , ,

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