“Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.”
-- Frederick Douglass
This past Saturday, I had the honor of addressing the American Library Association Conference. This group is not only important to me because of the work they do in communities across the nation, but also because my mother, Emily, is a retired librarian.
In many communities, libraries are the primary places where people receive digital literacy training. As I emphasized in my speech, knowing how to read is no longer sufficient to be “literate” in the 21st Century. For the nearly 100 million Americans who do not have broadband at home, 22% cite digital literacy as the number one reason for not adopting broadband. Libraries rode the technology wave and recognized the problem of digital literacy long before there was a National Broadband Plan.
My remarks highlighted portions of the National Broadband Plan that support libraries’ efforts to promote deployment and adoption of broadband, including: (1) overhauling the Universal Service Fund, which was successful in bringing voice service to nearly every American; (2) developing a Unified Community Anchor Network for institutions, including libraries, to better use their connectivity to improve the lives of the people in their communities; and (3) creating a Digital Literacy Corps to address digital literacy issues.
During the question and answer session, I emphasized how, from the beginning of my tenure at the FCC, I have made a conscious effort to get input from organizations and institutions who work directly with the American people. In my view, that viewpoint is essential if we are to understand the implications of our actions at the federal level. I noted that I look forward to working with the ALA, as it represents such an important aspect of our National Broadband Plan. Thank to all the wonderful people at the conference who shared with me their thoughts and personal experiences.