ALA calls for leap forward in E-rate goals; streamlined program


Author: press release
Coverage Type: press release
Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States

The American Library Association (ALA) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to accelerate deployment of the high-capacity broadband needed to serve students and learners of all ages through our nation’s libraries and schools.

ALA calls for new strategic investments in telecommunications and broadband infrastructure, as well as program changes to improve cost-effectiveness and streamline processes to enable greater participation. America’s 16,417 public libraries serve more than 77 million computer users each year, yet only half of these multi-user outlets offer Internet speeds above the FCC’s home broadband recommendation of 4 Mbps. Through these Internet connections, libraries support the education, employment and e-government resources and services all increasingly moving to “the cloud.”

Culminating two months of intensive review and research, the ALA’s response to the FCC’s most comprehensive E-rate proceeding since the program’s 1997 inception acknowledges this enormous opportunity for advancing the E-rate program. Monday’s filing also aligns with President Obama’s ConnectED goal to connect America’s students through libraries and schools to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years. The ALA calls for new E-rate funding to jumpstart and sustain high-capacity and high-speed Internet connections that support digital learning and economic development through libraries and schools. The current funding cap on the program consistently falls far short of meeting basic demand for Internet-enabled education and learning services, and technology trends clearly show needs and future capabilities only are growing.

To address this, ALA supports a two-pronged approach: 1) New temporary funding is needed to support the build-out of high-capacity broadband networks and especially provide increased support for libraries with the lowest levels of broadband connectivity. 2) A permanent increase in funding is not only justified but is a sound investment for the country.

ALA’s comments also encourage the FCC to:

  • Provide additional E-rate discounts for remote rural libraries that often confront the greatest broadband costs;
  • Streamline the E-rate’s application review process to incent consortium purchasing and replace E-rate program procurement rules with those of the applicable locality or state;
  • Lower barriers to deployment of dark and lit fiber and ownership of wide area networks when they are the most cost-effective ways to deliver high-capacity broadband to libraries and schools;
  • Work in cooperation with the library and schools communities to develop scalable bandwidth targets and benchmarks for measuring progress against these targets; and
  • Eliminate the Form 470 and allow applicants to file an “evergreen” Form 471 for multi-year contracts.

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