ALA calls for FCC to use $2 billion for e-rate demonstration projects, funding internal connections

For Immediate Release
Mon, 04/07/2014

Contact:

Jazzy Wright
Press Officer
Washington Office
202-628-8410
jwright@alawash.org

Today the American Library Association (ALA) called on (PDF) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy newly identified E-rate program funding to boost library broadband access and alleviate historic shortfalls in funding for internal connections.

“ALA welcomes this new $2 billion investment to support broadband networks in our nations’ libraries and schools so we may meet growing community demand for services ranging from interactive online learning to videoconferencing to downloading and streaming increasingly digital collections,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “This infusion can provide ‘two-for-one’ benefits by advancing library broadband to and within our buildings immediately and continuing to improve the E-rate program in the near future.”

In response to the FCC’s March Public Notice, the ALA seeks to leverage existing high-speed, scalable networks to increase library broadband speeds, improve area networks and further explore cost efficiencies that could be enabled through new consortium approaches. ALA proposes:

  • Supporting school-library wide-area network partnerships to better leverage local E-rate investments and support community use of high-capacity connections during non-school hours;
  • Providing short-term funding focused on deployment where libraries are in close proximity to providers that can ensure scalable broadband at affordable construction charges and recurring costs over time; and
  • Advancing cost-efficient library network development with new diagnostic and technical support provided at the state level.

The ALA also favors using much of the short-term funding to support internal connections—particularly for applicants that have not received these funds in recent years. At least one state reports its libraries have not received funding for “Priority 2” requests since 1999. The ALA proposal combines elements of the three options provided in the Public Notice to support certainty, fairness, keenly targeted eligible services, and simplicity in application requirements and processes.

“The ALA greatly appreciates the FCC’s diligence in exploring a wide range of program issues in this proceeding and recognizing the vital roles libraries play in connecting our communities,” said Marijke Visser, assistant director for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. “We look forward to continuing conversations about improving efficiencies, as well as increasing the E-rate funding necessary to fully support 21st century learning, education and access to robust digital resources.”

This year, for the first time, capped E-rate program funding fell short of demand for “Priority 1” requests from libraries and schools, and no funds are available for internal connections.

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