Office for Information Technology Policy Update

Rick Weingarten and Carrie Lowe from the ALA Washington Office for Information Technology Policy presented on library and IT issues in the current political climate.

E-Rate

  • Library participation continues to slide. Over 30% are eligible, but only 7% participate in E-Rate (I think I got the #s right). The application process is seen as too complicated and the discount is too low to off-set the workload involved.
  • We’re facing threats to E-Rate money.
  • ALA is lobbying to simplify the program, change the way poverty is measured, and try to get E-Rate back to doing what it was intended to do.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act)

  • The law states that carriers must re-engineer systems to assist law enforcement with wiretapping. The law had exceptions. It did not apply to “information services” or “equipment, facilities, or services that support that transport or switching of communications for private networks.” (e.g. the Internet and private networks).
  • Now lawmakers are attempting to amend the law to extend this to apply to broadband information services.
  • ALA has been meeting with the FCC and lawmakers to try to get libraries exempted from this law.
  • On September 23rd, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rule Making laying out who would be covered by the CALEA extension. It will have a serious impact on libraries in terms of cost and staff burden (the amended law requires a 24/7/365 contact at the library to respond to wiretap requests). There are serious privacy and security concerns with this proposal, and libraries and ALA will be fighting it heavily.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and Internet “Governance”

  • ALA has been quite silent about ICANN, and the speakers emphasized that this is something that will need to change.
  • There is a big US vs. international issue here. Since the US dominated the scene for a long time, there’s a sense of ownership and control that can’t be sustained in an international environment.
  • The World Summit on the Information Society concluded that greater international involvement is necessary and proposed four scenarios for governance structures.
  • ICANN just voted to approve the .xxx domain, which is the first content-defined domain (for sexually explicit material).
  • The US Government is largely rejecting all international findings and opinions, and continuing to attempt to act independently to control things.