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Contacts:
Bernadette Murphy (202) 412-7928 (m)
bmurphy@alawash.org

Lynne Bradley (301) 467-7200 (m)
lbradley@ala.org
For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2006

ALA calls for equity in telecommunications reform
Keep the E-rate

 

 

(New Orleans) The American Library Association (ALA) called upon members of the Senate Commerce Committee to ensure that broadband access is available in all communities by maintaining the E-rate discounts for public and K-12 school libraries.  Critical Senate Commerce Committee votes are needed at the rescheduled markup on S. 2686, the   Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006,on Tuesday, June 27. 

 

“We call upon all senators on the Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee to reject any of the new amendments to S. 2686 that would   erode the E-rate in particular, and the universal service fund in general,” said ALA President Michael Gorman.

 

“The E-rate discount program and the overall universal service fund (USF) are vital components of the   provision of affordable broadband and other telecommunications services to library users of all ages, especially in the poorest communities,” he added. “We must work to provide equity of access to advanced telecommunications services for all Americans.” 

 

The USF has grown, but the portion of the fund committed to the E-rate has been capped for many years at $2.25 billion.  The public library E-rate funds are only a small part of the E-rate portion of USF but they are critical for America’s library users—who increasingly rely on digital information and online data and telecommunications services.  Connectivity in public libraries has dramatically increased since the E-rate program began, but the continuing costs of connectivity demand continued E-rate support for the nation’s poorest schools and libraries.

 

“The public’s right to equal access to information is an essential principle of librarianship,” Gorman continued. “The E-rate – and network neutrality – are essential to securing that right for all Americans—not only those who can afford home computers.

Congress must put the ‘public interest’ back in telecommunications reform legislation.”

 

Preliminary debate at the first Senate Commerce Committee markup on June 22 focused on several amendments that would limit overall funding to the USF and make other changes that would deny or limit access to discounts for E-rate recipients.

 

ALA and its supporters will continue the battle for equitable broadband access in the full Senate and in later negotiations with the House of Representatives.   ALA is asking librarians, library patrons, and friends of libraries to ask senators to save the E-rate.

 



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