County to have high-speed internet at library branches

REGION — The 33 county library branches currently have internet service with a broadband speed of 40 megabytes per second, but an upgrade to high-speed internet will improve the download speed to one gigabyte per second.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote March 27 authorized a sole-source contract with Califa Group to provide high-speed internet services at county library branches. The five-year contract has a value of $1.5 million.

“I have been a huge supporter of libraries and I know their value in our communities,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. “The countywide upgrade to a high-speed network will open up countless new opportunities for library visitors, and it comes at very little cost to the county.”

The Federal Communications Commission has an E-Rate Program which subsidizes 85 to 90 percent of the costs for access to high-speed internet service for libraries and educational institutions. The county’s projected expense (based on an 85 percent subsidy) of $225,000, or $45,000 annually, will be funded by the county’s general fund revenue.

The county has provided free internet access for library patrons since 1994, and currently personal computers available for public use and free wireless fidelity access are available at all branches.

The California Research and Education Network is operated by a nonprofit consortium of research and education institutions, and in 2013 the State Library of California funded group access for California’s public libraries to join the network. The participation of the county library system in the network requires high-speed data circuits at each of its locations, and the cost of the public access circuits is eligible for E-Rate Program funding.

Califa Group is a nonprofit consortium of 250 public libraries in California and serves as a program administrator to add high-speed Internet service to public libraries throughout the state.  Because of Califa’s unique role as providing service for California Research and Education Network participants the Board of Supervisors made findings for a sole-source contract directly with Califa Group.

The download rate of one gigabyte per second is equivalent to downloading 3,000 books each second. County library patrons will be able to witness live video conference seminars, host virtual author talks at a county library location, or have an audience spread throughout various branches.

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