(HAMILTON TWP.) – Assembly members Wayne P. DeAngelo and Linda R. Greenstein recently introduced legislation to protect Internet service available at local public libraries which often serve as the sole point of internet access for residents applying for jobs online, obtaining program or community information, or obtaining public benefits such as unemployment.

Under the measure, Assembly Bill 2765 (A-2765), telecommunications companies would be required to provide free Internet service in at least one public library in each municipality in their coverage areas. The bill would apply prospectively to all telecommunications providers covered under a statewide franchise agreement and those companies that will enter into local franchise agreements.

“In this day and age, the Internet is the main entry point for many people applying for a job or primary place where they can find information on potential opportunities,” said DeAngelo (D-Hamilton). “We have heard from local libraries about the numbers of residents who come in routinely to go online since many companies solely take job applications electronically. It is imperative that these libraries remain a permanent spot where residents know they can get online.”

Even though community benefits such as Internet access to libraries are often negotiated on a town-by-town basis as terms of a franchise agreement with cable operators, DeAngelo and Greenstein’s measure would set a statewide standard for Internet availability in libraries to ensure equal access to all New Jerseyans.

“Our local libraries are truly at the heart of our communities. They are not only a place where residents gather for events or obtain reading materials, but they provide a lifeline to opportunities often only accessed on the Internet,” said Greenstein (D-Plainsboro).

Greenstein and DeAngelo added that permanently requiring telecommunications companies to pay for Internet service in libraries ensures that these public entities will not be forced to stretch taxpayer dollars to pay for the connection.

“Public funding for libraries continues to be unfairly under fire given the tremendous benefit to the services offered in return. This legislation would at least guarantee that libraries would not need to scramble to identify funding for Internet service,” added Greenstein.

“Realistically, Internet service for public libraries is a small cost for telecommunications companies; but it is a large benefit for residents who will benefit tremendously from it,” DeAngelo added.

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A copy of the legislation can be found online at Greenstein and DeAngelo represent the 14th Legislation District Office which includes parts of Mercer and Middlesex counties.