how the broadband sausage does or does not get made

The Vermont Department of Public Service will hold public hearings to gather public input on the final draft of the 2014 Vermont Telecommunications Plan. The Plan addresses the major ongoing developments in the telecommunications industry, including broadband infrastructure development, regulatory policy and recommendations for future action. The Department will hold two public hearings in Orange County on the public comments draft of the Plan prior to adopting the final Plan. Middle Branch Grange, 78 Store Hill Road, East Bethel, Vermont, September 18, 2014, at 2:00 p.m.

telecom meeting

I went to this meeting. There weren’t even going to be any meetings in Orange County, the county where I live, until someone showed up at one of the Barre meetings and suggested them. So there were two meetings in Orange County last week. One during the day in Bethel and one in the evening in Strafford. Unfortunately the weather didn’t totally cooperate so there was a local power outage for some reason and a forecast of a hard frost that evening. So a lot of the farmers who would have shown up at this even had to stay home and cover plants and do other things that farmers do when the weather starts getting cold.

I’ve been doing a lot of leisure-time stuff in keeping with my theme this month but today I went to work. I sat and listened to multiple stories of farmers and other neighbors struggling with digital disinclusion. I took some notes and I made a statement. This is the polished version of what I said.

My name is Jessamyn West, I’m a technology educator in Randolph Vermont and I wrote a book about the digital divide. I have three points I’d like to make

  1. We’re interested in results, not projections. A lot of the data we hear talks about when we’re going to have everyone online, or points to the number of people who have this technology available. I’d like to know why people aren’t online and what we’re doing to work with those people. Saying that most Vermonters have access overlooks the chunk of people with no access who should be the focal point of future build-outs. This report talks about how Burlington Vermonters have a choice of ISPs and overlooks that most of us have almost no consumer choice at all.
  2. And while we’re getting people access, let’s make sure they all have the same access. People talk about 3G and 4G as if they are the same as cable or DSL. They’re not. They come with bandwidth caps, overage charges, and a lot of concern about impending lack of net neutrality. Similar to how, back when people had dial-up, some people in more remote locations had to pay for the phone calls in addition to having to pay for the service. We’re seeing the same gap now with remote users only having satellite or cellular-based access. We should strive for everyone having equitable access.
  3. Most important to me is what we call the empowerment or the usability divide. I heard a person earlier say she wanted to get access to the internet so that she could run a website for her small business. Just getting access isn’t going to give her a website. She’ll need resources and likely some human help in order to be able to do that. And where does that come from? It used to be that the digital divide was just “People don’t have access to computers” and then it was “People don’t have access to the internet” and now that most people have access, sometimes only through their public library, we are still seeing participation gaps. These gaps align along the same lines as other structural inequalities like poverty, educational attainment, age, race, and disability status. The people not participating are already facing multiple challenges. We know this. We need to find a way to support those people and not reinforce those inequalities.

The hardest to serve have always been the hardest to serve; the challenge of getting everyone online is going to necessarily mean having a plan for those people as well as everyone else. Thank you.

On government and libraries – two important things

1. Supreme Court KIRTSAENG v WILEY decision came down, supporting first sale doctrine even for copyrighted works made abroad. This is good news for Team Library. Here’s more analysis from ACRL that declares it “a total victory for libraries”

2. Now that we’ve gotten a nice little bump from the We the People petition to increase the public’s access to the results of publicly funded science research, let’s keep pushing for more access to (and funding for) government information.

Petition: Require free online permanent public access to ALL federal government information and publications.

More explanation over at FreeGovInfo.

Access to Congressional Research Service reports is important but not guaranteed

I’ve talked here before about CRS reports and how even though they’re created on the public’s dime, there’s no easy and simple way to search for and actually access them without requesting them one by one via your congresspeople. This is frustrating. Apparently, it’s not even widely known that this is not the case. Secrecy News Blog, from the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, reports that the Librarian of Congress isn’t even quite clear on this.

Members of the public enjoy unrestricted access to all reports of the Congressional Research Service, according to the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington.

Though CRS has no direct public mission, at present the public has unfettered access to the full inventory of CRS Reports for the Congress at no cost through the office of any Member or committee,” he wrote in an April 4 letter (pdf) to Amy Bennett of Openthegovernment.org.

Unfortunately, that assertion is quite wrong. The public does not have access to the full inventory of CRS Reports. There is not even a public index of CRS reports that would enable people to request specific reports by title.

If you find this sort of thing totally fascinating, please familiarize yourself with the work that OpenCRS is doing and see if there is a way you can help them. Just look at all this good stuff. [freegovinfo]

why would anyone hate the library? Amy Poehler explains

Amy Poehler mentions, in an interview, that they just made up their anti-library stance in order to make a joke. But it turns out that they found many government officials actually shared those sentiments.

How much does Parks and Recreation hate the library?
The library represents that branch of government that’s like the smart kid—the teacher’s favorite. And the library always wins. They get whatever they want. Everybody loves them—nobody can say anything. People who work in the library think they are so much better than everyone else. And what’s really funny is we’ve been doing Q&A’s about our show, and people from local governments have said, “You guys nailed it about the library.” We were just making it up as a joke on the show, but I guess everyone hates the library.

[via]

IMLS and the new administration

I’m sure I’ll be dribbling out these little notices for the next few months, but I just learned that Bill Ivey has been appointed “to lead the Obama transition team with responsibility for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.” Here’s an interesting article about Ivey discussing how cultural pushes by administrations are not seem in the same way as actual public policies.

EPA Libraries coming back… sort of

Via resourceshelf, this account of the Memorandum of Agreement that was the result of arbitration between the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 and the EPA. Please see the linked documents for information from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on why the EPAs compliance — which they termed “grudging” — was not acceptable to EPA library workers.

“Even as many collections remain in crates, EPA has decided to micromanage what is left,” [PEER Director Carol] Goldberg added, noting that the agency has still not accounted for many of the library holdings it had removed. “Professional librarians should be making these management decisions, not political appointees.”