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RLBSS Bill Introduced in Legislature

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Saturday, February 16, 2019 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist. Additional information was added by SELCO Advocacy Consultant Jennifer Harveland on Monday evening, February 18.

Regional Library Basic System Support
 
HF1282 was introduced Monday at 3:30pm, chief authored by Rep. Mary Murphy. The bill will provide a $4 million annual increase over the current $13.57 million in regional library system support. The bill also amends the distribution formula to the 12 regional public systems to provide more stability in funding to each system.

Net Neutrality
 
Last week the House Commerce Committee reviewed HF 136, which is being referred to as the Net Neutrality bill. The legislation would require internet service providers contracting with the state of local government to abide by net neutrality principals. The legislation is opposed internet service providers, the Cable Association and other industry players, who will fight the bill throughout session. The companion bill, SF 317, doesn’t stand a chance to be heard in the Senate. The issue will likely be a point of negotiation between leadership during the conference committee process later in May.
 
Broadband
 
On Wednesday the House Greater Minnesota Jobs & Economic Development committee will hear an overview of the Border-to-Border broadband grant program. Those testifying include:
 

  • Office of Broadband Development, Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • Minnesota Telecom Alliance
  • Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition (MRBC)

 
The MRBC has asked for $70 million in new broadband funding. Governor Walz has signaled an interest in supporting $80 million for the fund. HF 7 and SF 9 are the MRBC backed bills we’re tracking this session.
 
Walz Budget due
 
At noon on Tuesday Governor Walz’s much anticipated two-year operating budget for state government services will be released. There have been no leaks that hint to what will be included in his budget plan. Stay tuned for more information on the Walz budget plan.

Legislative Update

The following information was shared with the library community via the MLA and ITEM Legislative Update Newsletter Friday, April 20, 2018 by Sam Walseth, Capitol Hill Associates, in his role as the MLA-ITEM lobbyist.

There are four weeks left of the 2018 legislative session and as expected all the major decision-making will come down to the last weekend (May 18-20). The state’s constitution prescribes Monday, May 21 as the last day, but it also stipulates that the legislature cannot pass bills on a day prescribed for final adjournment (when they adjourn ‘sine die’). Therefore, midnight on Sunday, May 20 is the last chance for the legislature to pass bills. 
 
The House and Senate are currently in the process of assembling their omnibus supplemental spending bills that encompass change items across all of state government. In the ensuing week or so we’ll see the House and Senate produce a tax bill aimed at addressing conformity issues with the new federal tax law. 
 
2018, being the even numbered year in the biennium, is the traditional year for a bonding bill. The bonding bill process has always been a backroom ordeal, making it difficult to track progress on any one proposal. Don’t expect to see a lot of public process on the bonding bill. It will emerge amidst a global deal in the final hours of session. 
 
What’s specifically at stake for MLA-ITEM?
A public employee pension bill aimed at improving the solvency of the various pension funds is in the mix. The Senate didn’t hesitate to move this bill out and approved it 66-0 in March. House GOP leadership will hold the bill until the last days of session as bargaining leverage for the infamous ‘global’ negotiations yet to come. 
 
The supplemental budget bill could impact Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA), broadband funding and force school districts to implement ‘academic balance’ policies; legislation birthed from a culture war dust up in Edina schools last fall. Funding for library construction and renovation grants are at stake in the bonding bill.
 

RLTA (Regional Library Telecom Aid)

The Governor’s supplemental E-12 bill notes the potential for $350,000 in unspent Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA) in the current fiscal biennium. Instead of re-purposing these funds for Regional Library Basic System Support (RLBSS), the administration decided to recommend transferring any unspent RLTA funds to the school Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) program.

MLA has been working with the House and Senate to keep these public library funds in the public library fiscal world.  Despite testimony from the MN School Boards Association (MSBA) saying they want the funds for TEA, the House Education Finance committee is recommending keeping unspent RLTA funds in public library budgets. The House doesn’t go quite as far as MLA had requested in terms of using the funds for general operating purposes. The House supplemental E-12 budget bill would have the MDE Commissioner work with the regional library systems to re-purpose unspent RLTA funds next March on a variety of broadband and technology expense in a more flexibly manner than the limitations of the federal e-rate program (which RLTA is tied to). 
 
The Senate acquiesced to the MSBA position and their supplemental E-12 bill calls for cancelling unspent RLTA funds back to the state’s general fund and then the bill appropriates $440,000 for TEA. The bill doesn’t make a direct link between unspent RLTA and TEA in how it’s written, but Senate E-12 Chair Carla Nelson confirmed the move and her intent when I testified on behalf of MLA asking to keep the funds in RLTA. Chair Nelson said while she hoped to address library funding issues in the next budget session, she needed these funds for TEA in this non-budget/supplemental session. 
 
MDE has informally said they support MLA’s request to keep the public library RLTA funds in the public library fiscal world. The issue will be sorted out in the supplemental budget conference committee that will organize in the next week or so and will work until the end of session. 
 

Bonding

Library construction has been a mainstay of the bonding bill for many cycles. Governor Dayton proposed $2.5 million for library construction and renovation grants. We’ve had some positive attention this session in the House with the Kimball folks coming forward with a great story and request. Thanks to Rep. Jeff Howe for his continued advocacy for library projects. Hopefully, we’ll see an agreed to bonding bill emerge in the last night or two of session that includes funding for libraries. Broadband

Broadband

Governor Dayton has proposed an additional $30 million for community broadband funds. The House and Senate supplement bills include $15 million for broadband. Senate Jobs Chair Jeremy Miller spent $15 million of his $17 million on broadband, showing strong support in the Senate. Senator Rich Draheim offered an amendment that would require oversight of broadband service providers and internet speeds. Sen Draheim proposed that providers be required to disclose on their billing statements the average speed they are receiving during the billing period. However, the amendment was withdrawn in the spirit of solely focusing on funding the fund this year, without policy changes, as had been the position of the Rural Broadband Coalition.

In the House, Chair Pat Garofalo also spends $15 million on broadband, but he earmarks $750,000 for satellite providers. The funds are to be spent on 1,000 unserved consumers to aid in satellite equipment installment as well as to lower monthly subscription fees for one year. The Rural Broadband Coalition was disappointed at the amendment, especially since the satellite providers only are only required to meet speed goals of 25/3.

Net Neutrality

Talk of state actions to curb the impact of the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules have been quiet since January when two DFL law-makers announced they would push legislation to address the issue. However, earlier last week Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL Cottage Grove) and Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced legislation (SF 3968 and HF 4411) that would require internet providers doing business with the public sector in Minnesota to abide by net neutrality provisions. The session process is well past policy bill deadlines and the GOP majorities weren’t likely to take up these bills anyway. However, we may see these members make an attempt to offer this legislation as a ‘floor’ amendment in their respective bodies if they can find a bill that is germane to this issue. 

 

Net Neutrality Protections Eliminated in Draft FCC Order

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is voting on Net Neutrality on December 14. More information on Net Neutrality can be found on ALA’s District Dispatch, and an update published today has additional information on the proposed policy changes.

MLA’s Legislative Chair Jami Trenam, in a message to the Minnesota Library Legislative committee, said, “While the FCC is voting on the future of net neutrality on Dec. 14th, we can encourage Congress to put pressure on FCC commissioners.”

Please consider contacting 1st Congressional District Representative Tim Walz and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. If you prefer, you may use ALA’s email tool instead. Subscribe to the Legislative committee listserv here.

 

 

Net Neutrality Under Attack: How the FCC’s vote is likely to affect libraries

This is excerpted from a blog post to American Libraries that can be found in its entirety here.  

 May 18, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted today to begin dissolving Obama-era regulations regarding net neutrality, and reactions from the library community are not positive.

“I see it as a trend that is going to take us backward in time,” says Mike Robinson, professor of library science and head of the systems department at the Consortium Library of the University of Alaska Anchorage. “The internet is supposed to represent a democratization of access to information, and libraries are part of that democratization movement. Getting rid of net neutrality undermines that.”

The American Library Association (ALA) agrees, releasing a May 18 statement from ALA President Julie B. Todaro. “Net neutrality is critical to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to information for all, and today’s actions by the FCC endanger that,” the statement reads. “We are at risk of maximizing profits for commercial [internet service providers] and large content providers, while degrading internet access and choice for libraries and ultimately all consumers.”

Specifically, the FCC voted to review rules passed in 2015—rules that prevent internet providers from charging extra to deliver specific content more quickly and from blocking or slowing web sites. Under those rules, broadband services are classified as a utility-like service, similar to electricity or water.

Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai holds that the 2015 rules have not only caused the telecommunications industry to reduce investment in broadband access but have also given regulators excessive control over the internet. He and his fellow Republican on the FCC, Mike O’Rielly, voted for the rules’ review, while Democrat Mignon Clyburn voted against it.

The public will now be able to comment on the FCC’s proposal. When the comment period ends later this year, the agency will create a specific order and vote on it.

 

More information on the FCC proposal can be found here. Instructions for commenting on it can be found here.

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the policy known as net neutrality by a vote of 3-2, as reported by NPR. This is tremendous news for libraries who advocate for the free and unfettered access to communication. While the Internet will not be free of charge, this act means that service providers must be neutral gateways instead of regulating access and bandwidth at different costs.

If you wish to review the definition of net neutrality and why it’s important to libraries, the ALA has a resource page which you may find useful.

ALA, 10 other higher education & library organizations file public comments with FCC

Building on the net neutrality principles released on July 10, 2014, ALA and 10 other higher education and library organizations filed joint public comments to “adopt the legally enforceable network neutrality rules necessary to fulfill library missions and serve communities nationwide.”  In their joint comments, the groups suggest ways the FCC should strengthen their proposed rules, including:

  • explicitly apply open Internet rules to public broadband Internet access service provided to libraries, institutions of higher education and other public interest organizations;
  • prohibit “paid prioritization;”
  • adopt rules that are technology-neutral and apply equally to fixed and mobile services;
  • adopt a re-defined “no-blocking” rule that bars public broadband Internet access providers from interfering with the consumer’s choice of content, applications, or services;
  • further strengthen disclosure rules;
  • charge the proposed ombudsman with protecting the interests of libraries and higher education institutions and other public interest organizations, in addition to consumers and small businesses;
  • continue to recognize that libraries and institutions of higher education operate private networks or engage in end user activities that are not subject to open Internet rules; and
  • preserve the unique capacities of the Internet as an open platform by exercising its well-established sources of authority to implement open Internet rules, based on Title II reclassification or an “Internet reasonable” standard under Section 706.

The full press release from ALA, including a link to the public comments, can be found here.

In a posting on the ALA Washington Office’s blog, The District Dispatch, these

joint comments mark another definitive statement on behalf of all types of libraries and the communities we serve, but are simply one more step in a long journey toward our goal. There’s more to be done, and librarians can make their voices heard in a number of ways:

  1. Email to the ALA Washington Office (lclark[at]alawash[dot]org) examples of Internet Service Provider (ISP) slowdowns, lost quality of service relative to your subscribed ISP speeds, and any other harm related to serving your community needs. Alternately, please share examples of potential harm if we do not preserve the open internet (e.g., impact on cloud-based services and/or ability to disseminate digitized or streaming content on an equal footing with commercial content providers that otherwise might pay for faster “lanes” for their content over library content).
  2. Ask your board to support and/or adopt the network neutrality principles. Several people in attendance at the Annual Conference program on the topic suggested this, and the ALA Washington Office will develop and share a template for this purpose in the coming weeks.

 

 

Higher education, library groups release net neutrality principles

On July 10, 2014, the American Library Association (ALA), along with several higher education and library organizations, released a set of net neutrality principles ” they recommend form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups believe network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth.” The full press release from ALA can be found here, but the principles include:

  • Ensure Neutrality on All Public Networks: Neutrality is an essential characteristic of public broadband Internet access. The principles that follow must apply to all broadband providers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who provide service to the general public, regardless of underlying transmission technology (e.g., wireline or wireless) and regardless of local market conditions.
  • Prohibit Blocking: ISPs and public broadband providers should not be permitted to block access to legal web sites, resources, applications, or Internet-based services.
  • Protect Against Unreasonable Discrimination: Every person in the United States should be able to access legal content, applications, and services over the Internet, without “unreasonable discrimination” by the owners and operators of public broadband networks and ISPs. This will ensure that ISPs do not give favorable transmission to their affiliated content providers or discriminate against particular Internet services based on the identity of the user, the content of the information, or the type of service being provided. “Unreasonable discrimination” is the standard in Title II of the Communications Act; the FCC has generally applied this standard to instances in which providers treat similar customers in significantly different ways.
  • Prohibit Paid Prioritization: Public broadband providers and ISPs should not be permitted to sell prioritized transmission to certain content, applications, and service providers over other Internet traffic sharing the same network facilities. Prioritizing certain Internet traffic inherently disadvantages other content, applications, and service providers—including those from higher education and libraries that serve vital public interests.
  • Prevent Degradation: Public broadband providers and ISPs should not be permitted to degrade the transmission of Internet content, applications, or service providers, either intentionally or by failing to invest in adequate broadband capacity to accommodate reasonable traffic growth.
  • Enable Reasonable Network Management: Public broadband network operators and ISPs should be able to engage in reasonable network management to address issues such as congestion, viruses, and spam as long as such actions are consistent with these principles. Policies and procedures should ensure that legal network traffic is managed in a content-neutral manner.
  • Provide Transparency: Public broadband network operators and ISPs should disclose network management practices publicly and in a manner that 1) allows users as well as content, application, and service providers to make informed choices; and 2) allows policy-makers to determine whether the practices are consistent with these network neutrality principles. This rule does not require disclosure of essential proprietary information or information that jeopardizes network security.
  • Continue Capacity-Based Pricing of Broadband Internet Access Connections: Public broadband providers and ISPs may continue to charge consumers and content, application, and service providers for their broadband connections to the Internet, and may receive greater compensation for greater capacity chosen by the consumer or content, application, and service provider.
  • Adopt Enforceable Policies: Policies and rules to enforce these principles should be clearly stated and transparent. Any public broadband provider or ISP that is found to have violated these policies or rules should be subject to penalties, after being adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Accommodate Public Safety: Reasonable accommodations to these principles can be made based on evidence that such accommodations are necessary for public safety, health, law enforcement, national security, or emergency situations.
  • Maintain the Status Quo on Private Networks: Owners and operators of private networks that are not openly available to the general public should continue to operate according to the long-standing principle and practice that private networks are not subject to regulation. End users (such as households, companies, coffee shops, schools, or libraries) should be free to decide how they use the broadband services they obtain from network operators and ISPs.