Wednesday, June 03, 2009

For New Yorkers: Opportunity Online: Achieving Broadband Solutions for Libraries and Communities

Lake George, June 3, 2009Today and tomorrow (June 3 & 4) I'm attending Opportunity Online in Bolton Landing (NY), which is a summit to discuss broadband access to communities and libraries. Attending this event are library leaders, community partners, stakeholders, and influences. There are librarians, government officials, service providers and others here. (I'm here representing the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries.) Part of the funding for this event has come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The New York State Library coordinated this event.

The reality is that broadband Internet access is not universal in the United States and is not always affordable. During one of the sessions, we exchanged information about our communities. There are more stories than you can imagine about communities that can't acquire broadband access. Some are in remote areas where providers don't want to run cable because of the expense. Some communities have optical fiber running near their communities, but they can't get fiber for the last mile (also called the first mile in parts of the world). That lack of broadband access affects schools, libraries, businesses, and residents.

We also exchanged stories about the need for access. Governments are doing more things online (and eliminating paper) (example). More businesses are recruiting for employees online and people applying for jobs need to be able to complete job applications online. Schools are relying on the Internet for connecting students with educational resources. In these cases (and many more), Internet access means broadband access that is fast and reliable.

We saw maps and tables today that showed were New York State stands in terms of broadband access. For most of the state, the news is not as rosy as it should be.

What's the solution? I think some of our brainstorming today will help us all think creatively about solutions. Our dinner speaker -- Dr. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart -- mentioned the Broadband Federal Stimulus money that has been allocated to New York State. This is a grant opportunity that will be available to many types of organizations to help spread broadband access. In total, there is $12.5 billion for New York State. Mayberry-Stewart encouraged people in the audience to apply for these grants.

These two days are a beginning. We're exchanging information and setting the stage not only for further dialogue, but also for action. If there is no action, then this will have been for naught.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. It will be interesting to hear the ideas that bubble up after we all have slept on the information we've heard.

Addendum (June 10, 2009): From the FCC web site:

The FCC is currently working in coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to perform the FCC’s role under the Recovery Act.

Specifically, in conjunction with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program established by the Act, the FCC has been tasked with creating a National Broadband Plan by February 17, 2010. The Recovery Act states that the National Broadband Plan shall seek to ensure all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal.

Additional information can be found in this section of the FCC web site. I found this document to be useful: Program-Specific Recovery Act Plan for the FCC’s Efforts on the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Summit helped me to focus on the needs of libraries, large and small, and the great challenges they face in sustaining upgrades. The conference provided an excellent forum for sharing practical ways to partner with new user groups as potential partners in this initiative and the big thinking that would include libraries as one of the economic drivers for revitalizing a community and the quality of life associated with a resource which Bernie Margolis, our State Librarian, called the new electricity. In our quest to connect at higher bandwidth, we still need to think about the quality of community life afforded by the availability of reliable and affordable broadband services. The large question may not be cost but the will of community to accept this challenge and need.