ALA: FCC should consider role, benefits of libraries in National Broadband Plan

Contact: Jenni Terry

Press Officer

ALA Washington Office

(202) 628-8410

For Immediate Release

August 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Library Association (ALA) President Camila Alire encourages the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the role of America’s libraries in a National Broadband Plan as the FCC begins its workshop series to develop the plan.

The first workshop, to be held tomorrow, will focus on civic engagement and e-government – two areas in which libraries are active and positioned to serve in a heightened capacity as the agency establishes new goals and initiatives.

“Across the country, librarians and staff at public libraries are connecting individuals to essential e-government services such as unemployment benefits, federal and state emergency assistance, tax filing, Social Security, Medicare Part D and much more,” Alire said.

A recent ALA study,
U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services, found that 61 percent of libraries report providing access to government information as one of the most critical Internet services they provide. The study also points to the increasing public dependence on library computers, highlighting another ALA study that reported the public library is the only source of no-fee Internet access for 71 percent of America’s communities.

“As the FCC begins this critical national discussion, they must remember that the library is the place that closes the digital divide for millions of individuals who do not have home computers and is also the place where anyone can seek personal, one-on-one assistance with obtaining information and resources available to them online,” Alire said.

“We look forward to working with the FCC and hope to have opportunities to share more with them about how libraries can help the Administration realize its goal of ensuring all people have access to reliable, high-speed broadband.”

In April, the ALA Washington Office submitted a
filing to the FCC in response to its call for comments to help inform the commission’s consultative role in the broadband provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The comments shared how libraries, as key community service entities and anchor tenants for broadband connectivity, play a vital role in providing access to online resources and opportunities, especially in rural communities.