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E-Rate Enters 21st Century

in Broadband's Impact/Education/FCC by

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission has decided to allow the E-rate program to subsidize more than basic internet service.

The program, which currently allows for libraries and schools to obtain government funding to subsidize telecom funding, has been under fire due to the difficulty of the application and complex method in which the funds are distributed.

“The FCC’s E-rate order will help bring affordable, super-fast fiber connections to America’s schools and libraries. It allows participants to use E-rate funds to connect to the Internet in the most cost-effective way possible, including via unused fiber optic lines already in place across the country and through existing state, regional and local networks,” according to the FCC.

The new order also creates the School Spots program allowing schools to become hotspots for the local community. This can include the creation of open public labs or simply broadcasting Wi-Fi.

The new Learning On the Go pilot program is geared toward college campuses and will allow for support for mobile learning devices. With the increasing popularity of eBook readers and digital textbooks, this program will allow for the partial subsidization of pilot programs.

The “order is fundamentally about empowering schools and libraries. It gives schools and libraries more choices for broadband, enabling them to pick among the full range of options in the marketplace, including leasing low-cost capacity from fiber optic networks that have already been deployed but are not yet being used, and lighting this dark fiber,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The order received full support from Genachowski and commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn while Commissioner Robert McDowell dissented in part. While Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker agreed with McDowell’s dissent, she also supported the expansion of E-rate to include broadband.

McDowell opposed the new provision that increased the funding cap and indexed it to inflation. Additionally, he dissented to providing additional funding for wireless internet support. “I do however dissent from the part of the Report and Order that establishes a trial program to support wireless Internet access offsite. I recognize that putting wireless technologies into the hands of students and teachers can be a powerful and exciting way to supplement our education system. Nonetheless, I am concerned that opening up this new spending line item may be far beyond what Congress originally intended when it mandated subsidies for the wiring of schools and libraries to the Internet. Myriad questions abound that should be addressed in a further notice before launching such a trial. “

“These developments could ultimately bring more money to our libraries, which means better services for the public; however, in order to maximize these benefits, applicants need swift guidance from the FCC on the implementation of these rules,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington office.

Library Association Wants Increase In Computer Center Funding

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, December 29, 2009 – The American Library Association, along with other supporters of broadband build-out, has asked the government agency charged with distributing broadband stimulus funds to allocate more money for public computer centers.

“Eighty-one percent of public libraries say that they do not have sufficient computer capacity to meet the needs of their patrons,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office, in a statement. “We believe obtaining additional funding through the Public Computer Center program would equip libraries to continue meeting the needs of the public,” she said.

In a letter addressed to Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling the library association asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to increase the funding as part of its second round of grants for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

The groups said the funding boost is needed to help public libraries and community colleges expand their Internet access capabilities and to encourage the purchase of computers and other technology hardware.

American Library Association to Hold BTOP Webinar, Releases 'Nuts and Bolts' Guide

in Broadband Stimulus/Broadband's Impact/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2009 – The American Libraries Association will hold its third and final webinar on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, before the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) first-round applications are due on Friday, August 14. This webinar will focus on the “nuts and bolts” of the application process for libraries.

The ALA on Wednesday released “A Note on Resources about Jobs and the Economy: Assistance for the Library Community in Their Applications to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program,” supporting the webinar materials.

This document is in tandem with an informational guide already posted the association.

“We want to ensure every library interested in BTOP funding has the knowledge and guidance necessary for a successful application,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office.

While informing the library community about the Notice of Funding Availability and application guidelines, the ALA Washington Office has also advocated for improvements to the BTOP Broadband Infrastructure Program so that libraries are more likely to apply and receive funding in the second and third rounds of the grant program.

Also on Wednesday, the ALA highlighted “U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services,” a report which 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.

Additional ALA resources can be found at www.ala.org/knowyourstimulus.

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