The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a public notice seeking comments on who or what organizations should be involved in implementing a nationwide Digital Literacy program. This FCC action is an initial step in implementing Recommendation 9.3 in the National Broadband Plan which calls for the federal government to initiate a Digital Literacy program. As the National Broadband Plan acknowledges, “Digital literacy is a necessary life skill, much like the ability to read and write.” Libraries are a critical part of the digital literacy picture and the FCC’s public notice readily acknowledges that “For millions of Americans, libraries have become established institutions where people feel comfortable accessing the Internet.” And, “Libraries are a known place in the community where people may already go to seek help in becoming digitally literate.” The ALA appreciates the FCC’s recognition that libraries are essential institutions in addressing digital literacy needs.
The details of implementing a digital literacy program are now being debated and seeking input on these details is very much part of the FCC’s public notice. For example on funding for digital literacy, ALA does not support using E-rate funds because the E-rate program is chronically underfunded to meet its current eligible services including Internet access, telecommunication services, and internal connections. Neither does ALA support administering a digital literacy program through the E-rate program regardless of the funding source. The ALA’s Washington Office is now reviewing the FCC’s public notice and will submit formal comments once the review is completed.
The ALA looks forward to working with the FCC, schools and other community anchor institutions to ensure the success of any digital literacy program.