Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ALA Advocates for Rural Broadband to Public Libraries

The Federal government stimulus package includes grants to be awarded for broadband technology. The "kick-off" to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008 Broadband Initiative took place on March 10, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Public Meeting of NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program included a live webcast. From the comfort viewing the webcast from sunny California, it was clear that the room was packed and at least 1,750 were viewing the webcast. The last portion of the hearing was devoted to Q&A. It was good to see that Alan Inouye, director of the American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy, asked for the dates of upcoming public meetings and stated that he hopes that grants to service providers will make access and discounts available to public libraries.

Public Meeting Description: The U.S. Congress has appropriated $4.7 billion to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program for awards to eligible entities to develop and expand broadband services to rural and underserved areas and improve access to broadband by public safety agencies. Of these funds, $250 million will be available for innovative programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services; at least $200 million will be available to upgrade technology and capacity at public computing centers, including community colleges and public libraries; $10 million will be a transfer to the Office of Inspector General for the purposes of BTOP audits and oversight. Up to $350 million of the BTOP funding is designated for the development and maintenance of statewide broadband inventory maps.

Presenters included:

  • Anna Gomez, Acting Administrator, NTIA, US Department of Commerce.
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of US Department of Agriculture. See Rural Development website.
  • Michael J. Copps, Acting Chair, FCC.
  • Rick Wade, Senior Advisor and Acting Chief of Staff, US Department of Commerce.
Panel on Broadband initiatives, statutory requirements and timelines included:
  • (Moderator) Mark Seifert, NTIA Senior Advisor
  • Dr. Bernadette McGuire-Rivera, Associate Administrator, NTIA
  • David Villano, Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs, USDA Rural Development
  • Scott M. Deuchman, Acting Senior Legal Advisor to Acting Chairman Copps, FCC.
There will be a comment period before the grant rules and regulations are determined. Then, the grants will be given out as fast as possible. The ALA will be actively working on behalf of broadband deployment to rural public libraries.

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