In addition to a record snowfall, something else fell upon the inside-the-beltway community in the winter of 2010: The National Broadband Plan. For technology policy wonks, even the name of the plan makes your mouth water. And, yes, here in Washington there was a kind of crazed anticipation leading up to the plan's release. But why should America's librarians care?
Broadband is the new national infrastructure. Just as electricity, telephones, and highways became essential in the 20th century, full participation in life in the 21st century depends on broadband. Librarians know all too well the consequences of having only modest connectivity--for instance, how a library's network slows down midday after the school bell rings. The plan has great potential for increasing broadband capabilities for the library community.
A key component of the plan addresses the federal E-rate program, which provides telecommunications discounts (to the tune of something like $100 million per year) to benefit libraries across the country. Some of the major initiatives for improving the E-rate program--an important part of the American Library Association's national policy agenda--are highlighted in the plan. The plan calls for simplifying the application and disbursement processes, raising the funding cap, increasing the resources available for necessary internal modifications, and looking for other ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program.
Digital Literacy Corps
The plan also calls for the creation of a National Digital Literacy Program to promote the deployment and use of broadband, which has gotten everyone …