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ALA supports FCC proposal to fund digital literacy training through public libraries

The Library Triple Play
The American Library Association (ALA) yesterday filed comments (pdf) with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting its proposal to advance broadband adoption by low-income people through digital literacy training in our nation’s public libraries and schools.  After wide consultation with the library community, the ALA asserted six main points:

  • Digital literacy is vital to ensuring equal opportunity in a knowledge economy;
  • Public libraries are ideally positioned to support digital literacy training;
  • Public libraries–even those now doing digital literacy programs–need additional resources to meet demand for digital literacy training;
  • Any program designed to address digital literacy must have the flexibility to meet community needs and build library capacity;
  • It is appropriate to use savings from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund Lifeline program reforms to support digital literacy training and broadband adoption for low-income people; and
  • Funding for digital literacy training through libraries should be separate and distinct from the E-rate program and should be administered thusly.

As ALA OITP Fellow Bob Bocher wrote previously, the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking sought comment 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 trusted, community-based, noncommercial intermediaries with a long history of supporting literacy and learning, libraries are well-positioned to support this vital effort to help ensure digital inclusion and opportunity,” said Larra Clark, Director of the Program on Networks.

More specifically in its filing yesterday the ALA also:

  • Opposed limiting funding to libraries that do not already offer digital literacy training;
  • Proposed community level of poverty should be the first determinant for prioritizing applicants;
  • Sought additional funds to fully implement the program;
  • Opposed a proposed match requirement; and
  • Asked that FCC consult and collaborate with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Chief Offices of State Library Agencies (COSLA) in developing the digital literacy program.

“My colleague Marijke Visser (OITP Assistant Director) and I would like to thank the library community, including state library staff; members of the OITP Digital Literacy Taskforce, E-rate Taskforce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications; colleagues in the ALA Washington Office and the many others who gave vital input and feedback into developing our positions on this important effort.”

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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