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Posts Tagged ‘hotspot’

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Photo: Karl Gehring/Denver Post via Getty Images
According to
Vice, the FCC needs to clarify whether libraries lose their subsidized rates during Covid-19 social distancing if they offer wifi away from their buildings.

Libraries, as usual in a crisis, are stepping up. Remember the critical role of the Ferguson Library during the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri? I’ve been following that library on social media since then, and I’m impressed with what it does for the community and how fast it responds to needs.

Now, during social distancing, libraries are offering wifi hotspots via bookmobiles. Karl Bode reports at Vice, “As millions of Americans hunker down to slow the spread of coronavirus, the lack of affordable broadband access has become a far more pressing problem.

“The FCC’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report states that 21.3 million Americans lack access to any broadband whatsoever, be it cable, DSL, fiber, or wireless. Recent studies suggest that number is actually twice that thanks to inaccurate FCC broadband availability maps.

“It’s a problem that is notably worse in many low-income and minority communities, long-neglected by the nation’s incumbent broadband monopolies.

“For many Americans, the local library is their best and sometimes only opportunity to get online. But with many schools and libraries closing to protect public health, these users are losing access to a valuable resource in a time of crisis.

“In a letter to the FCC [March 19] the American Library Association (ALA) floated a solution: why not turn the nation’s 16,557 public libraries into free, communal broadband Wi-Fi hotspots, then extend that access into the broader communities that surround them?

“American libraries are subsidized by the FCC E-Rate program, which helps them obtain and deliver broadband access to bridge the digital divide. But the ALA said libraries were worried that the [current administration] —which has taken aim at the program in recent years — would penalize them for extending broadband access to users that are technically not on library property. …

“The ALA urged the FCC to waive E-rate restrictions so libraries could not only offer Wi-Fi access via local libraries, but could also provide broadband service to disconnected communities via bookmobiles and mobile hotspots without running afoul of FCC rules. …

“Former FCC lawyer Gigi Sohn told Motherboard that the FCC has more than $1 billion in available funding from the last round of E-rate subsidies, and could easily waive E-rate restrictions during a crisis. …

“On Monday the FCC issued a statement making it clear that libraries would not be penalized under E-Rate rules for extending Wi-Fi access beyond their property boundaries. …

“While the FCC said it was ok for libraries to leave their hotspots running during the pandemic, the agency simply ignored libraries’ questions as to whether they’d be penalized for extending access into the broader community. …

” ‘We are pleased that the FCC, in response to our request, has clarified that schools and libraries may leave their Wi-Fi networks on for community use without jeopardizing their E-rate funding,’ the The SHLB Coalition said in a statement. ‘The SHLB Coalition now encourages the FCC to take the next step and grant the Petition of the Boulder Valley School District to permit schools and libraries to extend their broadband services to surrounding residential consumers.’ ”

More at Vice, here.

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