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Archive for the ‘telecommunications reform’ Category

Key Takeaways for Libraries from FCC National Broadband Plan

In broadband, community partnerships, information policy, library funding, open access, telecommunications reform on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), the FCC’s National Broadband Plan came out this week. The 360-page document is a worthwhile read. Below are some key takeaways related to libraries and our constituents.

The FCC writes, “If this plan succeeds, every American community will have affordable access to far better broadband performance than they enjoy today. To do so, the plan makes recommendations about reforming the E-rate and the Rural Health Care support programs. Second, non-profit and public institutions should be able to find efficient alternatives for greater connectivity through aggregated efforts. … Schools, libraries and health care facilities must all have the connectivity they need to achieve their purposes” (See Chapter 2, Goal 4).

Of particular note is the reminder that, “Over half (51%) of African Americans and 43% of Hispanics who use the Internet do so at a public library.”[1] The three primary issues inhibiting equitable Internet access are affordability, digital literacy and relevance. All three of these issues impact library services. And as more and more basic social services move online, libraries must continue to address the literacy gaps and whittle away at the perception (by 19% of people surveyed) that the Internet’s merely a “waste of time.”

To this end, the plan calls for capacity-building among community partners stating, “…public computing centers provide more than just free access to the Internet. They provide supportive environments for reluctant and new users to begin to explore the Internet, become comfortable using it and develop the skills needed to find, utilize and create content.[2] Patrons of these centers overwhelmingly express the value of the personnel who staff them and can offer one-on-one help, training or guidance”[3] New LSTA grants and training programs for library personnel are key components of the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of a “Digital Literacy Corps” to support programs that close the digital knowledge divide. Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigators program is one successful example. Libraries across the country should harness this opportunity to shape new local programs and promote existing models. The plan asks Congress to increase funding for IMLS, which, if accomplished, will open incredible avenues for community partnerships, literacy programs and equipment upgrades.

Other highlights include recommendations to ensure greater affordability and speed, increase competition and consumer protections, restructure the E-Rate program, expand rural broadband access, and improve public safety and communications access for people with disabilities. The FCC found that, “An important and cross-cutting issue is accessibility for people with disabilities. Some 39% of all non-adopters have a disability, much higher than the 24% of overall survey respondents who have a disability.”[4] Major barriers include the lack of accessible websites, software, equipment and the connection speed needed to use crucial adaptive tools like VoIP. As any librarian will tell you, many people with disabilities only have access to basic adaptive equipment at their libraries. The plan concludes, “The federal government must promote innovative and affordable solutions to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to communications services and that they do not bear disproportionate costs to obtain that access.”

The Broadband Plan was shaped by input from all corners of the U.S.; yet, it was a broad grassroots effort that assured rural and Indigenous communities, people of color, low-income residents and small businesses were heard. These groups collected stories from digital “haves and have-nots,” met with FCC Commissioners, hosted teach-ins, and garnered media attention to educate the public.

There are a number of outstanding issues and next steps to ensure this plan is implemented. Libraries should not miss the opportunity to partner with these community-based groups and localize our policy advocacy work. Our local communities will be better served for it. One step in this direction: yesterday the California Library Association’s (CLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee signed the grassroots Digital Inclusion Pledge. Representing 3,000 members in California, CLA joined dozens of other state and local groups. I encourage other local libraries and associations to do so as well.
NOTES:

[1] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 77, Jon P. Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption: Comparative Trends in Adoption, Acceptance and Use, Jt. Ctr. for Pol. & Econ. Stud. 3 (2010) (Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption).

[2] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 89, American Library Association Comments in re NBP PN #16, filed Dec. 2, 2009, at 3.

[3] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 90, Dharma Dailey et al., Broadband Adoption at 27–28.

[4] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 10, Horrigan, Broadband Adoption and Use in America at 24, 7.

Community and Advocacy Groups Respond to Broadband Plan

In broadband, information policy, media justice, telecommunications reform on March 17, 2010 at 6:51 am

Following up my post yesterday summarizing National Broadband news, here are two more excellent commentaries on the FCC’s new plan:

Community Groups Applaud Broadband Plan…But Say There’s Still a Ways to Go
Center for Media Justice

A Man. A Plan. A Problem. The Internet
Free Press

Information Round-up: FCC’s Broadband Plan Released Today

In broadband, information access, information policy, telecommunications reform, Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

Today, the Federal Communications Commission released its plan for national broadband expansion. The plan, titled Connecting America, was mandated by the 2009 Recovery Act.

But, what does it all mean? Consumer rights groups have pressed for more regulation to assure accessible and affordable Internet for all, while large broadcasters oppose FCC interference in opening the market to more competition and regulation. There’s been a lot of David vs. Goliath metaphors out there, but one thing everyone agrees on is that the national plan is one thing and its implementation is another. (And, yes, digital and information literacy is yet another, as the Washington Post reminded us today).

Since many of us only know a cursory amount about broadband, below are links to background, news and analysis about the plan.

BACKGROUND

What is Broadband?
Federal Communications Commission

Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan
Federal Communications Commission

NEWS

FCC Plan Urges Faster, Wider Broadband Internet Access (video)
Consumers cite “cost and digital literacy” as main obstacles; FCC: “this plan is a win-win”
PBS News Hour

FCC National Broadband Plan: What It Means for You
Chloe Albanesius, PC Magazine

Broadband Plan Faces Hurdles
Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

FCC Broadband Plan Wins General Praise
Grant Gross, Computer World

ANALYSIS

Standing Ovation for National Broadband Plan
Center for Creative Voices in Media

Statement of the Media Access Project in Reaction to FCC National Broadband Plan
Media Access Project

NAB Statement on National Broadband Plan
National Association of Broadcasters

Weigh In on Open Internet Access

In information policy, net neutrality, open access, telecommunications reform on April 16, 2009 at 9:10 am

ife-latest1The Internet for Everyone Coalition is asking for public input on the importance of universal Internet access. The brief survey asks for public recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission and the Obama Administration.

Free Press explains: “President Obama and Congress have tasked the FCC with developing a national broadband plan by the end of 2009. We want to be sure Washington is committed to finding people-powered solutions to bridge America’s digital divide… By taking the survey, you’re ensuring that people outside of the beltway have a say in America’s national broadband plan. Your top recommendations from the survey will help determine our next steps as Free Press and the InternetforEveryone.org coalition work to shape better Internet policy.”

Take the survey here.

I took it in under 5 minutes.

New Journal Looks at Media Reform v. Media Justice

In information policy, media justice, social movements, telecommunications reform on January 5, 2009 at 5:54 am

The International Journal of Communication has a new issue critically engaging with the media reform movement (Vol. 3, 2009). It is edited by Dan Berger and C. Riley Snorton, both radical scholars at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.

As a new movement (just over 10 years in the making), media reformers have adopted a centrist lobbying strategy to influence national media and telecommunications rulemaking. While national, this focus on media regulation and D.C. politics makes for a narrow coalition. Berger and Snorton along with Makani Themba-Nixon are just a few of those discussing alternative strategies, notably the work of grassroots media justice organizers who are rooted in social movements led by marginalized communities. As Themba-Nixon writes, “for many activists working for racial and gender justice, addressing the way media content defames and denigrates their constituencies is a central part of their media change agenda” — one that the media reform movement has deliberately sidestepped in favor of bipartisanship.

For radical librarians, issues of national and local information policy along with conversations about equity of access that directly address structural injustice overlap a great deal with the vision and principles of media justice. This journal edition presents a critical history of media reform by Berger and Snorton with responses from four scholars including Themba-Nixon, Robert McChesney, Richard Collins and Peter Dahlgren.

Net Neutrality? Yes, Please

In elections, media diversity, net neutrality, privacy, telecommunications reform on November 17, 2008 at 5:49 am

imagesNet Neutrality is back in the news after Barack Obama released his comprehensive technology plans last week. And yesterday, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) announced plans to bring net neutrality legislation before Congress. Finally. Media activists have kept this issue in the spotlight for years (see SaveTheInternet.org), and now is certainly not the time for advocates of an open Internet to stop advocating. While Obama’s statements on net neutrality have been heartening, let’s not forget his alarming change of heart around FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). Let’s remind Obama that digital democracy, information privacy, and diversity in media ownership should all remain top priorities.

GetActive: Write Obama Now

GetEducated: SaveTheInternet.org

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