Libraries want better Internet as they eye new tech

Libraries say they need better Internet services as they provide new technologies to patrons, pointing to a recent announcement from the Obama administration to increase broadband funding for educational institutions.

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Earlier this week, President Obama and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced changes to the agency’s E-Rate program, which provides discounts to connect American education institutions to high-speed Internet.

On Tuesday, Obama said that tech and telecom companies — including Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint — are giving $750 million to the program in services and equipment. 

On Wednesday, Wheeler announced an agency effort to modernize the program, including rolling over and restructuring the program’s funding, increasing it from $1 billion to $2 billion. 

In a statement, the American Library Association applauded Wheeler’s announcement — including that the FCC will prioritize joint applications for funding — but said Wheeler’s envisioned reforms “must be accomplished, however, through a phased transition rather than flash cuts.”

The library group outlined the ways libraries rely on broadband funding to provide services to their patrons, including video conferencing, cloud-based services and Google Glass applications.

“Our libraries must be equipped so that no one is denied opportunity because of inadequate broadband,” the group said.

The association also said it looks forward to engaging with the agency as it reforms the program.

"We commend the commitment of FCC Commissioners and staff to engage libraries and schools at this critical time. We look forward to the upcoming Public Notice and the opportunity to help shape the transition away from legacy services in ways that do not unintentionally disadvantage the libraries furthest behind."