Answering the Call: How the FCC’s Definition of Information Service Threatens the Future of Universal Service

Richard Chabran photo 2004 Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture By  Richard Chabrán

Abstract: In the 21 st century, libraries must expand its definition of “outreach” to engage in the ongoing telecommunication policy debate taking place within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, state legislatures, state public utilities commissions, and the courts. However, this debate is neither well-known nor discussed within the general library community, placing itself and the general public at risk. The current trend within the FCC in redefining telephone other media services as unregulated information services, threatens to erode the nation and state’s universal service programs. The FCC’s redefinition is contrasted with the values and principles articulated in the Library Bill of Rights.

This lecture will describe the process by which an academic Latino librarian became an advocate for equity in forming California's telecommunication policy. This presentation will explore the implications of the FCC’s redefinition of information services for underserved communities and how it is in conflict with efforts to address the “digital divide.” This is a call for librarians to engage in a debate that has implications for all communities and their libraries.

   About Richard Chabrán

Richard Chabrán serves as chair of the California Community Technology Policy Group (CCTPG). In this capacity, he has met with the California Legislative Internet Caucus and presented testimony to various legislative committees in an effort to define the issues surrounding the impact of the digital divide and suggest solutions. He presented on the digital divide before California's Commission on Building for the 21st Century and contributed to their report entitled Invest for California - Strategic Planning for California's Future Prosperity and Quality of Life. In 1995, Chabrán served on the California Senate Bill 600 Task Force on Telecommunications Network Infrastructure. This task force explored ways for schools, public libraries, and community centers to gain access to the new information technologies. CCTPG has helped shaped several pieces of legislation in California that support community technology, libraries, and universal service programs.

Until recently Chabrán served as the Director of the Communities for Virtual Research (CVR), Assistant Director of the Ernesto Galarza Applied Research Center, and Distinguished Librarian at the University of California, Riverside where he oversaw the UCR Community Digital Initiative (CDI). CDI, a community technology center, provides access to Riverside's low-income community, provides training with a link to employment, and serves as a technology resource to the local community. Governor Gray Davis selected CDI for California’s Technology and Innovation Award.

Mr. Chabran has worked in the area of Latino librarianship for over 25 years. He served as the Coordinator of the Chicano Studies Library, now part of the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley from 1975-1979, and also the Coordinator of the Chicano Studies Research Library at UCLA from 1979-1995. He chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on LAUC Regional Workshops on Cultural Diversity in Libraries that wrote the Many Voices of Diversity report that was accepted by LAUC in 1992. He also chaired the Working Group on Libraries and Information Resources of the SCR43 Task Force that compiled "Latinos and the University of California Libraries."

At the national level, Chabrán served on the Project Action Committee of the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Networking Project for Minority Serving Institutions (AN-MSI). AN-MSI’s goal is to assist minority-serving institutions as they develop their camps infrastructure and national connections to become full participants in the emerging Internet-based information age. He served as a member of the American Library Association’s Office of Information Technology Policy Telecommunications Subcommittee which promotes involvement in telecommunication and information technology policy matters by the library community. He served as Co-Chair of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library Service to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking Information Technology Committee that produced REFORMA's Information Technology Agenda.

In August 2000, he contributed to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universitites' (HACU) testimony to the Web-based Education Commission that was established by Congress to develop specific policy recommendations geared toward maximizing the educational promise of the Internet for pre-K, elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary education learners. He is contributing to the Latino Education Task Force, which is part of Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) Gigabit or Bust™ Initiative.

Finally, he serves as a project advisor to the University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science Knowledge River: Spanning the Digital Divide program and on several of The Children’s Partnership’s projects including Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Americans: The Digital Divides New Frontier, Young Americans and the Digital Future, ContentBank.org, and The Search for High-Quality Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Communities: Evaluating and Producing What's Needed.

Chabrán has received national recognitions for his work with others. In 1991, he was named Visiting Librarian/Scholar at Michigan State University. In 1996, he was named Librarian of the Year at UCLA. In 1997 he received the UCLA Latino Alumni Association's Padrino Award and was named as one of America's most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business. In October 2001 he was the recipient of Syracuse University's School of Information Studies First 21st Century Librarian Award. He has been recognized by Cruz M. Bustamante, the Lieutenant Governor of the State of California, Congressmen Joe Baca and Ken Calvert, California State Senator Nell Soto and California Assembly member Rod Pacheco. In 2002, he was featured in Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers”. In 2003 he was named Scholar of the year, the life time achievement award of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies and received the UCLA La Raza Graduate Student Association Appreciation Award.

Mr. Chabrán is a founder of the Chicano Database and Chicano/Latino Net (CLNet), a Latino Internet portal. He is a co-editor of Biblio-Politica: Chicano perspectives on library service in the United States (1984) and the Latino Encyclopedia (1996). He co-authored Cyber Access in the Inland Empire, which documents unequal patterns of computer ownership and Internet access. His latest article "Immigrants, Global Digital Economies, Cyber Segmentation, & Emergent Information Services," appears in Immigrant Politics and the Public Library, edited by Susan Luevano, Greenwood Press (2001). “Place Matters, Journeys through Global and Local Spaces” co-authored with Romelia Salinas will appear in Technological Visions: The Hopes and Fears that Shape New Technologies edited by Marita Sturken, Douglas Thomas, and Sandra Ball-Rokeach, Temple University Press, in March 2004.

Chabrán has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of California, Berkeley, Los Angeles, the University of La Verne, and Pitzer College and is scheduled to teach in Knowledge River in the School of Information Resources and Library Science at the University of Arizona in Spring 2004. Mr. Chabrán has lectured nationally on Latino Librarianship and community technology.