The Federal Communications Commission’s Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan Identifies Libraries as Important Internet and Digital Literacy Learning Centers

Among many key points and recommendations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identifies the importance of libraries as Internet and digital literacy learning centers in the recently released National Broadband Plan. The FCC sttes that in addition to other community centers and social service offices, “Libraries are established institutions where non-adopters [of broadband] know they can access the Internet” (2010, p. 176). Also, “…libraries and other community partners are critical to improving digital proficiency in communities” (p. 176).

In fact, the Plan includes a specific recommendation for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop guidelines that ensure that librarians and other community-based organizations have the necessary training to help users utilize next-generation E-government applications (see Recommendation 9.3). The plan also encourages IMLS to “develop guidelines for public access technology based on populations served and organization size” (p. 176), with the purpose of helping libraries and other community-based organizations determine their public access workstation, portable devices, and bandwidth needs.

The Plan suggests that once these Guidelines are developed it may be appropriate for IMLS to propose to the Congress additional funding to implement the Guidelines. FCC’s identification of the importance of libraries in meeting U.S. Internet and digital literacy needs is a critical step in enumerating the value and importance of broadband for libraries.

The Information Use Management & Policy Institute has recently done considerable work in the area of broadband and public libraries, much of which agrees with the FCC’s conclusions about the importance of libraries in broadband adoption and use and the FCC’s recommendations. For more information on the Institute’s work in the area of broadband and public libraries, see the recently published papers, “Broadband for Public Libraries: Importance, Issues, and Research Needs” and “Broadband Deployment as Technological Innovation: Assessing the Needs of Anchor Institutions” and the 2009 report Needs Assessment of Florida Public Library E-Government and Emergency/Disaster Management Broadband Services.

The National Broadband Plan is available and more information on libraries can be found in Chapter 9: Adoption and Utilization.