King Recognizes Former Sen. Olympia Snowe for Work Expanding Rural Broadband Access

 U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) participated in a celebration commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act held at the Library of Congress, where he recognized the work of former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in establishing the E-Rate program that expanded access to rural broadband for students across the country. During the event, Senator King presented an award to former Maine State Librarian Linda Lord who accepted it on behalf of Senator Snowe.

 “The Telecom Act of 1996 was an absolutely extraordinary achievement that unleashed an explosion of creativity and consumer choice – and it took the leadership of people like Ed Markey, Senator Lott and Senator Rockefeller, and of course, the leadership of my friend, Senator Olympia Snowe,” said Senator King. “In fact, Olympia’s leadership on the E-Rate program directly enabled me as Governor to create the Maine Laptop Technology Initiative that helped provide laptops to middle school students. That’s why it’s an honor for me to present this award to Linda Lord – an old friend of mine and a stalwart champion of digital literacy as the Maine State Librarian – as she accepts on behalf of Olympia, who is one of my heroes.”

 The event today at the Library of Congress recognized the work of Senators Snowe and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) in crafting the Telecommunications Act of 1996, major legislation that overhauled the 1934 Communications Act to recognize for the first time at the federal level the unprecedented access to information provided by the Internet. As part of the landmark legislation, Senator Snowe worked together with Senator Rockefeller to create the E-Rate Program, which connected schools and libraries around the country to the Internet. By making Internet access more affordable for these local institutions, E-Rate has helped some of America’s most rural and disadvantaged communities gain access to the information and resources necessary to succeed in today’s digital world. The program has been instrumental in making Internet access available to nearly 100 percent of America’s schools. In fact, Maine now ranks 5th best in the nation in school and library Internet connectivity, connecting over 97 percent of institutions at 100 Mbps or greater.

 Former Maine State Librarian Linda Lord, who played a formative role in implementing and modernizing the E-Rate program, accepted, on behalf of Senator Snowe, the award presented by Senator King. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), former Senators Rockefeller and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), as well as several current and past members of the House of Representatives, and Twitter Vice President Colin Crowell also participated in the event.

 

 During his time in the Senate, Senator King has worked to take up Senator Snowe’s mantle as a champion of E-Rate and digital literacy. In 2014, he supported the FCC’s successful effort to modernize the E-Rate program in order to meet current and future needs of schools and libraries, and he has worked closely with Senator Rockefeller’s successor in the Senate, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), to improve access to digital learning resources for children. Last year, Senators King and Capito introduced the Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015 to ensure that school districts will be able to use federal education funding to sustain activities, services, and devices that support out-of-school Internet access. Senator King also successfully fought for the inclusion of an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which became law, that would allow school districts to fund education technology initiatives, including devices, services, and educator professional development.