[Libs-Or] INFORMATION Fwd: [District Dispatch] OITP hard at work on the first E-rate Notice of Proposed Rule Making

Diedre Conkling diedre08 at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 12:29:24 PDT 2010

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jacob Roberts <jroberts at alawash.org>
Date: Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 8:21 AM
Subject: [District Dispatch] OITP hard at work on the first E-rate Notice of
Proposed Rule Making
To: district at ala.org

District Dispatch has posted a new item, 'OITP hard at work on the first
Notice of Proposed Rule Making'

As promised, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  released the first
several intended Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs)  outlining proposed
changes to the E-rate program (see the FCC’s Press  Release for a summary of
the NPRM).  According  to the FCC the proposed changes will make the program
“a more effective  educational tool for teachers, parents, and students.”
The FCC is seeking  comment on a number of proposed reforms, including
for which ALA has  been advocating during the last 10 years or so of the
program.  Among others, these include: streamlining the  technology plan
requirement, raising the 2.25 billion dollar program cap, and  simplifying
application and disbursement processes.

It is easy to get excited about seeing these proposed  reforms in an
NPRM, but as all things E-rate, the devil is in the  details and ALA’s
for Information Technology Policy (OITP) is currently  in the process of
reading (and re-reading) the NPRM and associated previous Rules  and Orders,
order to analyze the potential impact the reforms as stated in  the NPRM may
have on the library community.   We are fortunate to have expert advice from
our E-rate consultant, Linda  Schatz, as well on-the-ground experience from
E-rate Task Force under the leadership of chair Linda Lord and vice chair
Maribeth Krupczak, and guidance from OITP Fellow Bob  Bocher.

E-rate education and advocacy has been a major focus of OITP  since the
inception of the program.  The  E-rate program has enabled thousands of
libraries to connect to the Internet  and maintain these connections through
over 600 million dollars in discounts  received in the first ten years of
program.   At the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which initiated
the  E-rate program (officially known as the Schools and Libraries Universal
Support  Mechanism), just over 44% of public libraries had a connection to
Internet.  Today, ALA’s annual Public  Library Funding and Technology Access
Study reports virtually 100% of  public libraries are connected to the
Internet.   Despite this level of connectivity, there are still significant
challenges to ensuring robust connectivity for public libraries, not the
of which are availability and affordability of broadband.  OITP recognizes
these factors and has been  actively engaged in a number of projects to help
states ameliorate the  broadband issues they face.

Throughout the tenure of the E-rate program, OITP has met  with FCC staff to
educate them about library specific issues related to  connectivity and
telecommunications.   More recently, OITP was actively involved in parts of
development of  the National Broadband Plan.  Former  Program on Networks
Director, Carrie McGuire (Lowe) served on an FCC panel discussing the
of E-rate.  The office also worked  with the Social Science Research Council
a project commissioned  by the FCC which studied low-income broadband
issues.  OITP continues to work closely with several  FCC staff members on
elements of the National Broadband Plan as it moves from a  set of
recommendations to the next phases toward implementation.

Beyond regular  interaction with the FCC and the submission of official
comments to the FCC, OITP has been involved with several projects focusing
educating  the library community about library connectivity in general and
benefits of  the E-rate program in specific.  This  spring marked the final
training for state E-rate coordinators of a three year  project funded by
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Ongoing education and outreach include
monthly conference calls for the state coordinators with representatives of
FCC and the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service
Administrative Company (USAC),  the organization that administers the E-rate
program as part of the Universal  Service Fund, for the FCC.  Additionally,
E-rate Task Force advises the work of OITP and actively participates in the
development of official comments related to E-rate.

As we craft the ALA response to the current NPRM, we will  depend on the
institutional knowledge that has built up through OITP’s  continual work on
the E-rate program and all its many related facets.  In recognition of the
FCC’s focus on  broadening the broadband capacity of schools and libraries,
thereby increasing  the positive impact this kind of connectivity has on
individual communities,  OITP will be carefully evaluating the previous and
current E-rate landscape in  preparation for supporting a future facing
community.  Just as the previous thirteen years of E-rate  have held
opportunity for libraries, so too can the next.  ALA is well equipped to
the fine lines  between the E-rate program as we know it, the intent at the
FCC, and the best  interests of the library community.  The  FCC encourages
comments from all interested parties and there will be ample  opportunity to
so during the reply period of this NPRM.  The comment date (30 days from
publication) and reply period (45 days from publication) will be determined
when the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.

It wouldn’t be E-rate if it weren’t a challenge, but the  future
opportunities are too important to pass up and ALA has a solid track  record
supplying insightful and timely comments to the FCC.

Marijke Visser
Information Technology Policy Analyst, OITP

You may view the latest post at

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Best regards,
Jacob Roberts
jroberts at alawash.org

Diedre Conkling
Lincoln County Library District
P.O. Box 2027
Newport, OR  97365
Work phone & fax:  541-265-3066
Work email:  diedre at beachbooks.org
Home email:  diedre08 at gmail.com
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