On Monday, the American Library Association (ALA) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to accelerate deployment of the high-capacity broadband needed to serve students and learners of all ages through our nation’s libraries and schools. ALA calls for new strategic investments in telecommunications and broadband infrastructure, as well as program changes to improve cost-effectiveness and streamline processes to enable greater participation.
America’s 16,417 public libraries serve more than 77 million computer users each year, yet only half of these multi-user outlets offer Internet speeds above the FCC’s home broadband recommendation of 4 Mbps. Through these Internet connections, libraries support the education, employment and e-government resources and services all increasingly moving to “the cloud.”
“The nation is facing a sea change in what robust technology infrastructure can enable, and libraries are perfectly positioned to light the way forward and ensure no one is excluded from digital opportunity,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “America’s libraries must move from basic connectivity to high-capacity broadband so our students and our communities can compete globally. The E-rate program is essential for fulfilling this digital promise.”
Culminating two months of intensive review and research, the ALA’s response to the FCC’s most comprehensive E-rate proceeding since the program’s 1997 inception acknowledges this enormous opportunity for advancing the E-rate program. Monday’s filing also aligns with President Obama’s ConnectED goal to connect America’s students through libraries and schools to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years.
The ALA calls for new E-rate funding to jumpstart and sustain high-capacity and high-speed Internet connections that support digital learning and economic development through libraries and schools. The current funding cap on the program consistently falls far short of meeting basic demand for Internet-enabled education and learning services, and technology trends clearly show needs and future capabilities only are growing. To address this, ALA supports a two-pronged approach: 1) New temporary funding is needed to support the build-out of high-capacity broadband networks and especially provide increased support for libraries with the lowest levels of broadband connectivity. 2) A permanent increase in funding is not only justified but is a sound investment for the country.
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