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Welcoming Wheeler – Help libraries remain beacons of 21st century learning

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

My prepared comments from the Voices for Internet Freedom Town Hall with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. I will post edited video here when it’s ready. In the meantime, you can watch the livestream here. I learned so much from all of the amazing speakers. Thanks to Center for Media Justice and Free Press for organizing this important conversation. Hopefully it’s the first of many with the commissioners.

Voices for Internet Freedom LogoJanuary 9, 2014 (Oakland, CA) Greetings Commissioner Wheeler. I’m here tonight as a public librarian, and I’m proud to say Oakland Public Library — like most libraries — is a beloved hub for digital learning, e-government, media participation and creation.

I’m also here because – despite great strides – more than 60% of libraries in California lack the bandwidth to meet public demand each day.[1] Including Oakland, where we’re years away from achieving ConnectED’s minimum goal of 100Mbps and light-years from seeing 1Gbps. (As of 2012, only 17% of California libraries had connections above 10-30Mbps).

Libraries and schools are the heartbeat of truly connected communities, but technologically too many rely on a virtual defibrillator to reboot each day and keep going.

Just today — Governor Brown released his budget proposing millions for high-speed Internet. It’s a step in the right direction but we need your support.

If I had more time, I’d tell you in-depth stories about the day I arrived to 50 people waiting outside for computers. Section 8 applications had opened. Entirely online.

Or the day I helped a mother, recently laid off, look for trucking jobs. She had 20 years of experience but every job listing posed a new challenge in technical know-how.

Or… I’d talk about the students who wait patiently for computers afterschool only to have the connection lag. How many hours have they spent watching the page load?

We all know what happens at rush hour. When you cram hundreds of drivers onto a single lane highway. You get a traffic jam. The FCC can help us widen the lanes.

As Chair, you can help libraries remain beacons of 21st century learning by:

  • Raising the e-Rate funding cap.
  • Streamlining the process while ensuring that funds go where they are needed most (based on community poverty levels and cost of service).
  • Reducing barriers to deployment.
  • And protecting an open Internet through Net Neutrality — so youth like Obasi Davis (who opened tonight’s event with a poem) can remain media creators, not just media consumers.

Libraries still provide the only reliable Internet access for more than half our patrons. Don’t let us flatline.

We look forward to working with you, Commissioner Wheeler. Thank you for your time.