Leveraging Libraries to Advance Digital Equity
America’s libraries have deep experience in meeting digital equity needs for people of all ages and backgrounds with unparalleled reach and trust across the nation. Libraries are actively involved in a larger digital equity ecosystem, and often have long-established partnerships and relationships with local and regional groups that can be leveraged to achieve community broadband equity goals for vulnerable populations.
Libraries Advance Digital Inclusion Role With Hotspots
Libraries are a lynchpin for national, state, and local digital inclusion efforts—particularly our 16,500+ public library locations across the country.
ALA makes recommendations to FCC on digital inclusion plan
As part of its modernization of the Lifeline program in March, the Federal Communications Commission charged its Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau (CGB) with developing a digital inclusion plan that addresses broadband adoption issues. Sept 14 the ALA filed a letter with the Commission with recommendations for the plan. ALA called on the Commission to address non-price barriers to broadband adoption by:
- Using its bully pulpit to increase public awareness about the need for and economic value of broadband adoption; highlight effective adoption efforts; and recognize and promote digital literacy providers like libraries to funders and state and local government authorities that can help sustain and grow efforts by these providers.
- Expanding consumer information, outreach and education that support broadband adoption—both through the FCC’s own website and materials and by effectively leveraging aligned government (e.g., the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Adoption Toolkit) and trusted noncommercial resources (e.g., EveryoneOn, DigitalLearn.org, Digital IQ).
- Encouraging and guiding Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) in the Lifeline program to support broadband adoption efforts through libraries, schools and other trusted local entities.
- Building and strengthening collaborations with other federal agencies, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Department of Education.
- Convening diverse stakeholders (non-profit, private and government agencies, representatives from underserved communities, ISPs, and funders) to review and activate the Commission’s digital inclusion plan.
- Regional field hearings also should be held to extend conversation and connect digital inclusion partners beyond the Beltway. There should be mechanisms for public comment and refinement of the plan (e.g., public notice or notice of inquiry).
- Improving data gathering and research to better understand gaps and measure progress over time.
- Exploring how the Universal Service Fund and/or merger obligations can be leveraged to address non-price barriers to broadband adoption. Sustainable funding to support and expand broadband adoption efforts and digital literacy training is a challenge
ConnectHome Marks One-Year Anniversary
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) marked the first anniversary of its ConnectHome pilot program—which connects public housing residents with low-cost broadband, devices, digital literacy training, and technical assistance—with a large-scale expansion that HUD Secretary Julián Castro called ConnectHome Nation.
Public housing and HUD-assisted residents living in Comcast’s service area are now eligible to apply for Internet Essentials, the company’s high-speed internet adoption program for low-income families. Up to 2 million HUD-assisted homes will have access to the program. The public–private partnership brings together Internet service providers, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector to narrow the digital divide for families with school-aged children who live in HUD-assisted housing. It builds on the ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of K–12 students to high-speed internet in classrooms and libraries by 2018. In a July 14 media call, Castro recognized the national partnership of the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries in the 28 pilot communities for helping to create true educational experiences for families. Libraries from Meriden (CT) to Nashville (TN) and Cleveland (OH) to Seattle (WA) are working with local public housing authorities to provide training to youth and their families