By Abner Galino
THE Los Angeles County Library has announced a forthcoming upgrade of the wireless technology in its 87 library locations following a US$5 million award from the Federal Communications Commission.
The funding was part of FCC’s E-Rate Program.
E-Rate is the commonly used name for programs undertaken by the Universal Service Fund for schools and libraries which is under the supervision of the FCC.
The LA County Library has said that the funding will be used to improve internet connectivity and network speed in all LA county library locations.
“Public computers and Wi-Fi access are among the most used library resources in LA County, but internet connection has been slow with an average speed of 10 to 20 MB per second,” the LA County Library said in a press statement.
The Library plans to offer speeds of up to 1 GB per second with the E-Rate funding.
The statement added that the “funding will allow libraries to connect to the California Research and Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity network that serves the vast majority of research and education institutions in the state.”
CalREN is operated by the non-profit Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), and will deliver faster, more reliable wireless access to library customers, helping to close the technology gap and remove barriers to access.
The LA County Library said that since many lower income communities cannot afford the added luxury of internet access in their homes, the upgrade will surely help in closing the gap.
“This digital divide has adverse effects—students lacking access to digital educational materials from home may fall behind in school, while residents lacking access to general information may struggle to improve their lives.”
“Because a large percentage of our customers come to the library for Wi-Fi and computer access, increasing the quality of our technology is essential to removing digital barriers and improving the Library as the center for learning for our customers, one of our strategic priorities” said LA County Library Director Skye Patrick.
“Our current network quality is not at the level that our customers expect or deserve. This grant will allow us to upgrade our infrastructure to provide a high-speed internet connection, enabling our customers to learn and explore at a much faster pace, while hopefully also attracting more foot traffic to the Library,” Patrick added.
The LA County Library has experienced an overwhelming increase in online resource usage within the last year—in addition to facilitating over 1.72 million Wi-Fi sessions and 1.8 million public computer sessions.