I left the E-rate Order on my desk last night

After schlepping the 176 pages of the E-rate modernization Order around since July 23 (when the Commission released the Order, voted on July 11), my bag is remarkably empty today. While I didn’t continually refer to it over the last month and a half, it has been a constant companion as we prepared our comments to the Commission on the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that accompanied the July Order. I can unabashedly leave it behind since we filed our comments (pdf) last night.

E-rate may be the “other” proceeding with comments due yesterday, but for ALA they represent a milestone of sorts. True to form, the Commission asks many detailed questions in the FNPRM, but two issues stand out for us. First, the Commission opened the door to talk about the long-term funding needs of the program. Second, it’s now time for the Commission to take up our concern that has followed ALA certainly since this proceeding began a year ago, but really since ALA started tracking broadband capacity of libraries. We reopen the call to immediately address the broadband gap among the majority of libraries. With 98% of libraries below the 1 gigabit capacity goal asserted in the National Broadband Plan and adopted by the Commission, we have a long way to go before we can comfortably say we have made a dent in the gap.

In looking to the next order (hopefully sometime this fall) we have heard from our members that while having access to more funding for Wi-Fi (the heart of the July Order) is important, if the library only has a 3 or even 10 Mbps connection to the door, the patron trying to upload a résumé, or stream an online certification course, or download a homework assignment is still going to have a marginal experience.

Our comments therefore focus on these two primary issues—adequate funding to sustain the program and closing the broadband gap for libraries. Among other recommendations we ask the Commission to increase and improve options for special construction where libraries do not have access to affordable, scalable high-capacity broadband by:

  • Clarifying the amortization rules;
  • Eliminating the ban on special construction for dark fiber;
  • Allowing longer term contracts where there is special construction involved; and
  • Requiring service providers to lock in affordable prices for a significant number of years for agreements involving special construction.

As to the overall funding question, ALA is engaged with partners to gather data that will give us an understanding of the costs necessary for libraries to achieve the Commission’s capacity goals. We plan to submit information to the Commission in the next several weeks.

For more details on our comments you can certainly read the whole thing. Or, we prepared a summary (pdf) to start with. With reply comments due at the end of the month, it’s time to get started reading other submissions and picking up where we left off (and with FCC filing system intermittently down—all those net neutrality filers, no doubt). We will continue connecting with our library colleagues and will begin more meetings at the Commission. More to come!

Posted in E-Rate, OITP, Public Libraries, Telecommunications

Libraries, E-rate, and ALA featured at TPRC

The scene at the 2014 Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference. Photo by TPRC.

The scene at the 2014 Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference. Photo by TPRC.

Last Friday, the American Library Association (ALA) made its first appearance (and through a whole panel no less) at the Telecommunications Policy and Research Conference (TPRC), the most prestigious conference in information policy. The telecommunications policy topic, not surprisingly, that has dominated our time for over the past year: E-rate.

The panel “900 Questions: A Case Study of Multistakeholder Policy Advocacy through the E-rate Lens” was moderated by Larra Clark, director of the Program on Networks for ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). The panel featured Jon Peha, professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and former chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation and a former Attorney-Advisor at the FCC. Rounding out the panel were Marijke Visser, ALA’s own Empress of E-rate and OITP Director Alan S. Inouye.

The panel served as a great opportunity for ALA to cohesively consider the extensive effort on the current proceeding that we’ve expended since June 2013. Of course, it was rather a challenge to pack it in 90 minutes!

Marjike Visser, Larra Clark, and Alan S. Inouye focused on the multiple key tradeoffs that arose in the past year. Supporting the FCC proposal that led to the first order, even though it focused on Wi-Fi—important, but not ALA’s top priority, which is broadband to libraries (and schools)—based on the promise of a second order focusing on broadband to the building. We worked hard to stand with our long-standing coalitions, while not in full agreement with some coalition positions. The panel explored tensions with: school versus library interests and the importance of both differentiation and collaboration; rural versus urban concerns; near-term versus long-term considerations; and the risks and rewards of creative disruption.

Tom Koutsky and Jon Peha provided context and analysis beyond the library lens. The E-rate proceeding emanated from a multi-year process that began with the National Broadband Plan and investments in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Koutsky and Peha illuminated the oft-hidden complexity behind advocate groups, who on the surface may seem to represent similar interests or organizations, but in fact engage in considerable conflict and compromise among themselves. They also discussed the challenges with new stakeholder entrants and their competing interests, both in the short run and long run.

This TPRC session is an important milestone for OITP. The Policy Revolution! Initiative is predicated upon reaching decision makers and influencers outside of the library community who affect critical public policies of interest to our community. Thus, increasing the ALA and library presence at key venues such as TPRC represents important progress for us as we continue to work through re-imagining and re-engineering national public policy advocacy. Also in the September-October timeframe, OITP representatives will present at the conferences of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), NTCA—the Rural Broadband Association, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).

The E-rate saga continues: ALA will submit comments in the most recent round—due tonight (September 15th)—and will submit further comments in the weeks ahead, as well as continue our discussions with the commissioners and staff of the FCC and our key contacts on Capitol Hill.

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

Advocating for stronger network neutrality protections

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a letter (pdf) to adopt strong, enforceable net neutrality rules essential to preserving freedom of speech, educational achievement and economic growth online. In the letter to the FCC, the organizations call for the FCC to set the bar higher than the “commercially reasonable” standard the agency had proposed—whether using Title II or Section 706 of the Communications Act – to preserve the open nature of the Internet.

“At this moment, we owe it to the nation’s library patrons, students, entrepreneurs and consumers to adopt enforceable net neutrality policies that prohibit practices such as ‘paid prioritization’ that would undermine Internet openness,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “The FCC’s proposed ‘commercially reasonable’ standard is not strong enough to preserve the culture of the Internet as an open platform for free speech, innovation, education, research and learning.”

“We are concerned that the FCC’s original proposal would allow Internet providers to prioritize or degrade Internet traffic—specifically content, services, or applications offered by libraries and educational institutions,” Young added. “Libraries, educational institutions, innovators and consumers increasingly operate as both consumers and content creators, and the Commission’s rules must protect both sides of the Internet access equation.”

More than 77 million people use public library Internet access every year to access resources, take classes, conduct research and develop and share content online. As a long-time advocate for intellectual freedom and equitable access to information, the American Library Association urges the FCC to move swiftly to restore network neutrality protections that preserve the culture and tradition of the Internet.

Learn more about ALA’s network neutrality advocacy efforts.

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

Reminder: Social Security webinar this week

Photo by Jessamyn West

Photo by Jessamyn West via flickr

Reminder: The American Library Association (ALA) is encouraging librarians to participate in “My SSA,” a free webinar that will teach participants how to use My Social Security (MySSA), the online Social Security resource.

Do you know how to help your patrons locate information on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security? Presented by leaders and members of the development team of MySSA, this session will provide attendees with an overview of MySSA. In addition to receiving benefits information in print, the Social Security Administration is encouraging librarians to create an online MySSA account to view and track benefits.

Attendees will learn about viewing earnings records and receiving instant estimates of their future Social Security benefits. Those already receiving benefits can check benefit and payment information and manage their benefits.

Speakers include:

  • Maria Artista-Cuchna, Acting Associate Commissioner, External Affairs
  • Kia Anderson, Supervisory Social Insurance Specialist
  • Arnoldo Moore, Social Insurance Specialist
  • Alfredo Padilia Jr., Social Insurance Specialist
  • Diandra Taylor, Management Analyst

Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Register for the free event

If you cannot attend this live session, a recorded archive will be available. To view past webinars also hosted collaboratively with iPAC, please visit Lib2Gov.org.

Posted in Events, Government Information, OGR, Public Libraries Tagged with: , ,

Free webinar: Understanding Social Security

Photo by the Knight Foundation

Photo by the Knight Foundation

Do you know how to help your patrons locate information on Supplemental Security Income or Social Security? The American Library Association (ALA) is encouraging librarians to participate in “My SSA,” a free webinar that will teach participants how to use My Social Security (MySSA), the online Social Security resource.

Presented by leaders and members of the development team of MySSA, this session will provide attendees with an overview of MySSA. In addition to receiving benefits information in print, the Social Security Administration is encouraging librarians to create an online MySSA account to view and track benefits.

Attendees will learn about viewing earnings records and receiving instant estimates of their future Social Security benefits. Those already receiving benefits can check benefit and payment information and manage their benefits.

Speakers include:

  • Maria Artista-Cuchna, Acting Associate Commissioner, External Affairs
  • Kia Anderson, Supervisory Social Insurance Specialist
  • Arnoldo Moore, Social Insurance Specialist
  • Alfredo Padilia Jr., Social Insurance Specialist
  • Diandra Taylor, Management Analyst

Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Register for the free event

If you cannot attend this live session, a recorded archive will be available. To view past webinars also hosted collaboratively with iPAC, please visit Lib2Gov.org.

Posted in Events, Government Information, OGR, Webinars Tagged with: , , ,

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