Librarians Take On FCC

Andrew AlbaneseWith the information world long since moved online, today’s librarians may worry more about broadband than bookshelves.

The shift to digital in our nation’s libraries means close attention to private Internet service providers as well as public regulators from groups like the American Libraries Association. This week, ALA criticized FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s move to revoke the FCC’s 2016 Lifeline modernization order, which librarians called critical to bringing information and opportunity to underserved communities.

“Specifically, that order had expanded a discount available on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to include broadband service,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.

“Let’s face it,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Without Internet access, you’re cut off these days, right? Banking, customer service, job applications—so many vital things have now moved online, so it makes sense that the lifeline program would be updated to cover Internet, as opposed to landline phone service.”

ALA criticized another Pai order to retract multiple reports, including the E-rate Modernization Progress Report, Albanese adds. “E-Rate” supports Internet service in schools and libraries, with nearly 50,000 schools and libraries receiving Wi-Fi support in 2015

“E-rate is largely funded by small fees on consumer phone bills – less than $2 a year for most consumers. It is unclear what the FCC’s retraction of the E-rate progress report, or the other reports, might mean for E-rate funding going forward, or other FCC programs. But surely librarians and educators will be paying attention to what happens next.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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