Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a landmark E-rate modernization order that addresses the broadband capacity gap facing many public libraries. In response, American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young released the following statement:
"Connecting America’s libraries with high-capacity broadband connects our communities with opportunity and changes lives. Sometimes the government’s words are far greater than their actions—today is not one of those times. The Commission’s action is monumental and will make a critical difference for the libraries and schools in our nation, and even more importantly for the communities and students they serve.
"Today marks the culmination of more than 18 months of ALA’s extensive and unwavering advocacy on behalf of libraries across the country in connection with the FCC’s E-rate proceeding. In this proceeding, ALA advocated, among other things, that the FCC must address both the lack of affordable high-capacity broadband for the majority of libraries and the long-term funding shortage of the E-rate program.
"We are very pleased that the Commission, as ALA recommended, has removed restrictions that have prevented many libraries from getting the broadband they so desperately need. In addition, we applaud the Commission for recognizing our concerns regarding the funding shortage. Today, the FCC confirmed that it will add an additional $1.5 billion to the yearly program for libraries and schools.
"We congratulate the Commission for completing what amounts to re-engineering a 20th century telecommunications program and, after strategic review, reassembling it to make sure libraries can build and maintain the cutting edge networks that are the foundation for 21st century education, employment and entrepreneurship, community engagement, and individual empowerment—what is known as The E’s of Libraries™.
"There are countless examples of the transformative impact of investing in library broadband. These include everything from a Maine library’s virtual field trips with the Smithsonian Museums to a patron Skyping for a job interview at the Omaha Public Library (NE). In another example, using the video conferencing available at the library in Sitka, Alaska, an adoptive parent was able to train for over six hours with doctors, nurses, and medical company specialists regarding her foster son's medical conditions. Going to Anchorage or Seattle was not an option as this parent is also an adoptive mother to 12 other children, all with disabilities.
"ALA warmly thanks the Commission for its strong leadership throughout the modernization proceeding in identifying a clear path to closing the broadband gap for libraries and schools and ensuring a sustainable E-rate program. Through the vision of Chairman Wheeler and commitment of the Commissioners and FCC staff to tackling numerous difficult issues, the E-rate program is well equipped for the future.
"ALA thanks the E-rate Task Force and our many partners, especially Alan Fishel, partner at Arent Fox and senior counsel to ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, who provided expertise that shaped our advocacy at the Commission. They were invaluable in raising the profile of libraries in this proceeding.
"Today’s vote coupled with the previous order brings ALA’s vision of a 21st century E-rate program for libraries to fruition. We’re rolling up our sleeves and look forward to the work ahead in making sure libraries in every state can take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity."
Fast facts on library broadband usage:
- Only 2% of libraries are at the FCC’s 1 gigabit goal.
- Half of all libraries report speeds of 10Mbps or less—only 10% of the goal.
- 1 in 5 rural libraries still report a 1.5Mbps connection.
- Two thirds of all libraries report they want to increase their broadband capacity.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.