In Opposition to Defunding WISCNET and other Internet Connectivity Programs

Last week, the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed a budget omnibus motion that affects the entire University of Wisconsin system. Sections 23-26 of the budget measure includes new telecommunication rules that would have extraordinarily negative ramifications, particularly for providing affordable Internet connectivity in support of research collaborations and education at universities, school, libraries and other public institutions statewide.

As Ars Technica summarizes:

[At] the urging of Wisconsin’s state telecommunications association, Republican legislators have introduced an omnibus bill that would sever WiscNet from the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Division of Informational Technology, and bar it from taking any money from UW.

The proposed law even goes so far as to prohibit UW from taking National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA) broadband stimulus grants, or joining any entity that offers broadband to the general public.

These measures would force UW to return an estimated $39 million in such funds to Washington, DC, warned Tony Evers, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, last week. And they would force schools to turn to Badgernet, Wisconsin’s state wide-area-network, which depends heavily on AT&T as its primary vendor.

Today, individual members of the UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies community has joined the chorus of voices speaking out against this bill. A PDF of the letter is here, and the full text is below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Zimmer, michael.zimmer@gmail.com

Dear members of the State Legislature:

As library and information science students, scholars, professionals, and educators, we are dedicated to maximizing and defending people’s free access to information and knowledge. Given this professional and ethical obligation, the undersigned individual members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Information Studies community urge the removal of sections 23-26 in the currently pending UW System Budget Bill.

Advanced and affordable broadband Internet networking is critical to the success of students, researchers and industry statewide. Services such as WISCNET, and related consortial connectivity projects like Internet2 and EDUCAUSE, provide vital access to information for libraries, schools, historical societies, museums, hospitals and local municipalities across Wisconsin.

The “telecommunications” section of the legislation as proposed would severely limit broadband connectivity throughout the state of Wisconsin and would cut the networked information services various libraries and educational institutions provide to the citizens of the state of Wisconsin, such as Internet access, networking and collaboration, and online education and job training. It would also prohibit the UW System from being a member of Internet2 and other nonprofit consortia focusing on connectivity and information exchange, severely limiting state educators, researchers, and learners’ ability to participate in global, national and regional research and learning development in areas from Alzheimer’s prevention to astrophysics to child development.

The passage of sections 23-26 of the UW System Budget Bill would be devastating to the State. The undersigned individual members of the UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies community strongly urge the legislature to remove these sections form the bill, and to support WISCNET and other connectivity initiatives that provide vital access to information in support of the State’s educational and economic development.

Signed,

(Signees are writing in their personal capacity, not as representatives of UW-Milwaukee or the School of Information Studies. Titles and affiliations are for identification purposes only, and imply no institutional endorsements.)

  • Liza Barry-Kessler, Doctoral Student
  • Edward Benoit III, Doctoral Student
  • Katie Blank, Assoc. Special Librarian
  • Dave Bloom, Researcher
  • Raina Bloom, Lecturer
  • Amy Cooper Cary, Director, Archival Studies Program
  • Karen Davies, Assistant Professor
  • Alexandra Dimitroff, Associate Professor
  • Melodie Fox, Doctoral Student
  • Thomas Haigh, Associate Professor
  • Rebecca Hall, Web Development & Marketing Coordinator
  • Catherine Hansen, Lecturer & Director, Professional Development Institute
  • Anthony Hoffmann, Doctoral Student
  • Adam Hudson, Lecturer
  • Jessica Hutchings, Graduate Advisor
  • Dick Kawooya, Senior Lecturer
  • Margaret Kipp, Assistant Professor
  • Sharon Lake, Graduate Advisor
  • Joyce M. Latham, Assistant Professor, Co-Director, Center for Information Policy Research, Coordinator, Public Library Leadership Program
  • Peter J Lor, Visiting Professor
  • Marta Magnuson, Doctoral Student
  • Jeremy Mauger, Doctoral Student
  • Steven Miller, Senior Lecturer
  • Robert Nunez, Web Developer & Graduate Student
  • Wihelm Peekhaus, Post-doctoral Research Associate
  • Nick Proferes, Doctoral Student
  • Angela Sadowsky, Undergraduate Advisor
  • Betsy Schoeller, Lecturer & Distance Education Coordinator
  • Jim Schultz, Information Technology Specialist & Graduate Student
  • James Sweetland, Professor Emeritus
  • Gabriella Tato, Marketing Media Assistant
  • Thomas D. Walker, Associate Professor
  • Mary Wepking, Senior Lecturer & School Library Media Coordinator
  • Bonnie Withers, Lecturer
  • Iris Xie, Professor
  • Chad Zahrt, Assistant Dean
  • Michael Zimmer, Assistant Professor & Co-Director, Center for Information Policy Research

 

 

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