Nearly 33 million U.S. households do not use the internet at home, and nearly twice that number of people in the U.S. have low levels of digital readiness. These digital opportunity gaps that disproportionately impact low-income families, rural residents and tribal communities, African Americans, Latinos, and people with disabilities. The leading reasons for these gaps are lack of awareness of the benefits of broadband, affordability, and lack of digital literacy.
America's libraries are essential to addressing these gaps and realizing the vision of universal broadband adoption and ability to use. Libraries work in our communities to 1) spur home adoption by increasing awareness of and confidence in using online resources and services, 2) provide internet access at the library for those who lack home broadband, and 3) support digital learning opportunities that empower entrepreneurship, job training and retraining, and widespread use of emerging applications and devices.
Affordable, high-capacity broadband internet access is critical to the mission and operation of every modern library. Broadband in library facilities is used by patrons to access digital collections, e-government services, and legal information, distance learning, telemedicine, and many other essential community services. Libraries not only offer public access to the internet, devices and digital collections, but library workers themselves are continuously developing new digital content, e-learning services, and other tools that depend on unfettered access to the internet. Library staff also help users to access the internet as a way to create and distribute their own digital content.
Because of the need for libraries to use broadband services and the professional interest of libraries, ALA follows broadband deployment and adoption issues closely, focusing mainly on accessibility, affordability, and universal service concerns. ALA is dedicated to preserving an open internet and the FCC's network neutrality rules, modernizing its Lifeline program, and ensuring that all libraries have access to affordable high‐capacity broadband communications services. ALA also strongly backs the creation of new opportunities for underserved and rural committees to access the internet, and efforts to ensure that sufficient and appropriate spectrum continues to be available for public use. Decision makers at the White House, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the U.S. Congress, and other public and private entities can and should look to libraries as critical players to make broadband work for everyone.
Summary of Positions
- ALA opposes any legislation that fails to preserve the core principles of network neutrality articulated in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order.
- ALA supports the FCC E‐rate modernization orders, which ensure that libraries and schools have access to high‐speed broadband connectivity, increase the E‐rate fund by $1.5 billion, and reasonably ensure that all applications will be funded.
- ALA supports efforts to modernize the FCC's Lifeline program to close the homework gap
- ALA endorses efforts in Congress and at the FCC to improve rural and tribal broadband access and to increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum available to support critical library technology services
- ALA encourages the FCC to heed public calls for it to preempt state laws that create artificial barriers to broadband infrastructure investment, deployment, competition, and innovation, and to foster more competition in the provision of high‐capacity broadband internet services