Fiber to the Library Initiative Gains Endorsements

  • Broadband Penetration
SAN FRANCISCO, CA and WASHINGTON, DC - In a watershed moment for public libraries across the U.S., Digital Village Associates announced today new support for the national "Fiber to the Library" project with endorsements from The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA), Fiber to the Home Council (FTTH), and Google Inc.

Dubbed "Fiber to the Library," the two-year-old initiative aims to bring next-generation Internet connectivity into every U.S. community by 2012 through the nation's 16,500 public libraries. The initiative conceives of libraries as Community Technology Hubs - places where people can test and explore new technologies in a trusted environment; find professional guides to help navigate the often daunting world of online services, especially those created by government agencies; and research, archive and digitize local historical and cultural information such as newspapers, photos, and other unique documents.

Although most libraries have broadband Internet service available to patrons today, speeds are often too slow to accommodate the growing needs of library fixed workstations and patrons' own wireless devices. New demands for next-generation applications such as high-definition videoconferencing worsen the situation.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deliver to Congress a National Broadband Plan by February 2010 - a key opportunity to lay the groundwork for a communications infrastructure capable of meeting 21st century demands.

"New, broadband-intensive services will be generated sooner and made available more broadly via fiber-connected libraries. Providing next-generation broadband access via optical fiber to America's libraries assures our library system will be able to meet the information needs of the 21st century," said Joe Savage, FTTH Council President.

Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, said, "Providing high-capacity fiber -- at 100 Mbps speeds -- to each and every public library can help transform those institutions into future technology hubs, local community nodes, and the essential information centers for the 21st Century. Any national broadband plan must take account of the enormous supply-side and demand-side potential of these unique community institutions."

"NATOA is proud to endorse the 'Fiber to the Library' initiative. Countless local governments have worked with public libraries for more than a decade to offer high-capacity Internet access over fiber optics, much as we do to other key anchor institutions such as schools and first responders," said NATOA President, Mary Beth Henry. "Libraries serve the essential function in any community of offering connectivity to the unconnected, and as the public space where all can experience the value of next generation online applications."

The strategy to connect every library with fiber optic communications creates a future-proof investment while also extending the nation's physical infrastructure.

"Libraries serve as the most logical community hub and gathering place to provide access to emerging technology and information," said Digital Village founder, Don Means, originator of the FTTL initiative. "By contributing a tiny percent of ARRA funds to provide fiber speed Internet to libraries we create the most cost effective, most equitable, and quickest way to deliver next-generation broadband services into every community in the country -- this is easily the biggest bang for the stimulus buck."

As part of the ARRA, the Federal broadband stimulus program has allocated funds specifically for libraries and provides the basis for states and local communities to complete the job. The ARRA appropriated $7.2 billion and directed the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access to underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.

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