Skip to main content

Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - 9:35am

sed seal                                                                                                 










New York State Universal Broadband Access Grant Program Update



October 2, 2008











Issue for Discussion


              The New York State Universal Broadband Access Grant


Proposed Handling


              The Cultural Education Committee will hear an update on the status of the New York State Universal Broadband Access Grant Program, including brief descriptions of some key program projects.


Procedural History


The New York State Library, in partnership with the 23 public library systems and the New York Library Association, received a $621,010 2007–2008 State Universal Broadband Access Grant entitled “Bringing Broadband to New York’s Libraries” from the Governor’s Office for Technology.  The grant’s purpose is to improve broadband access for the public through high-need rural and urban public libraries across the state.


Background Information


The final report of the Regents Commission on Library Services emphasized the need for libraries to meet the changing information needs of New Yorkers and the growing role of libraries’ technology services in meeting those needs.


Libraries serve an increasingly important leadership role in telecommunications. They provide a major outlet for critical information services, services that offer benefits, efficiencies, and cost savings to state and local governments. Because a majority of Americans frequent their public library, providing libraries with the means to become Community Technology Centers enables preparation of an informed public able to take advantage of e-Government and economic services that ultimately benefit state and local government.


However, many of New York State’s public libraries still do not have adequate broadband Internet access or enough public-access computers to meet the information needs of their diverse communities. Many of these communities are in an information void due to geographical factors, socioeconomic conditions, or lack of essential computer skills. At the same time, there is strong evidence that the demand for adequate broadband access is rising, e.g., the increased use of NOVELNY, the pilot program for the Statewide Internet Library.


In 2007, a study done by Florida State University (FSU) in conjunction with the American Library Association (ALA) surveyed the connectivity needs of New York’s public libraries. Over 90 percent of New York’s 1,100 public libraries and branches participated. Survey results show that library connectivity inadequacies are serious and widespread. Challenges stem from both the lack of availability and affordability of high-speed connections and the growing demands of Internet-based services and applications for greater bandwidth. The survey results found that 60 percent of New York’s public libraries lacked adequate broadband access services, although 82 percent indicated that providing Internet services is critical to their library’s role.


Currently, New York State’s 1,100 individual public libraries and branches receive no direct annual state funding specifically for technology purposes. Most public libraries have difficulty sustaining their current level of technology services, and are unable to upgrade technology without receiving some help to obtain broadband access or upgrade their current access.




              Staff recommends that the Regents continue to work with the library community and appropriate state and community agencies to support current efforts to create or enhance broadband capabilities in libraries and to develop and implement strategies for obtaining future funding to further these efforts on behalf of libraries in New York State.


Timetable for Implementation


               The “Bringing Broadband to New York’s Libraries” grant is a multi-year project, ending with a program evaluation in 2010.