Digital Equity Resources for Libraries: Read ALA's New Report
Summary of Positions
- ALA believes broadband is a human right, as adopted by the ALA Council, and advocates for policies and funding that enable libraries to help achieve universal broadband access & adoption.
- ALA opposes any legislation that fails to preserve the core principles of network neutrality articulated in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order.
- ALA advocates for improvements to the FCC's E-rate program that streamline the administration of the program to minimize applicant burden, making it easier for libraries to access over $4 billion in funding for high-capacity broadband connectivity.
- ALA supports efforts to modernize the FCC's Lifeline program to ensure low-income households have affordable access to the internet and devices to use it.
- 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
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. Digital opportunity gaps disproportionately impact low-income families, rural residents and tribal communities, African Americans, Latinx communities, and people with disabilities. The leading reasons for these gaps are 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 availability, 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 communities 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.
Resources & Tools
February 2021: Libraries Connect Communities: COVID-19, Internet Access, & Libraries
How are libraries keeping communities online during the pandemic?
- Report: Digital Equity and America's Libraries
- Report: Leverage Libraries to Achieve Digital Equity for All
- ALA Policy Perspectives - Keeping Communities Connected: Library Broadband Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Emergency Connectivity Fund
- Emergency Connectivity Fund - Information for Libraries webpage
- Includes application guide, CIPA guidance, and more resources
- ALA Summary of FCC's Emergency Connectivity Fund Order
- Emergency Connectivity Fund - Information for Libraries webpage
- Emergency Broadband Benefit Resources for Libraries
- Libraries Connect Communities: Covid-19, Internet Access, and Libraries: 2-Pager
Click to expand more resources & tools.
- Libraries Respond: Covid-19 2-Pager for Libraries
- Library Pledge for Digital Inclusion: IFLA Pledge
ALA pledges to support digital inclusion at all levels of our work, and calls on library workers across the country to do the same.
- Policy Brief: Equitable Opportunity for Tribal Communities through Libraries
Broadband is essential for learning, working, and daily life overall. Correcting poor broadband across Indian Country is a national imperative.
- Policy Brief: Libraries and E-rate: Leveraging Broadband to Provide Opportunity Across the Nation
Broadband is an essential infrastructure for libraries. Whether advancing education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment, or engagement, the work of libraries demands robust and reasonably-priced internet connectivity.
- Policy Brief: Digital Empowerment and America's Libraries
America’s libraries are essential to addressing the vision of universal broadband adoption and digital literacy.
- Institute of Museum and Library Services: Digital Inclusion Survey Issue Briefs
- Statement from the ALA Executive Board recommending libraries leave WiFi open during closures (March 23, 2020)
Official ALA Filings & Letters
- Filing with the FCC recommending approval of a limited waiver for Wi-Fi Alliance (April 5, 2023)
- Comment to the FCC on proposed rules for limiting digital discrimination (February 1, 2023)
- Filing with the Department of Labor in response to a Request for Information on Digital Literacy and Resilience (February 6, 2023)
- Filing with the NTIA regarding implementation of Digital Equity Act funding for libraries, as enacted through the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (February 4, 2022)
- Letter to Senators supporting broadband provisions in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and urging passage of the bill (August 5, 2021)
- Letter to FCC urging quick action as COVID-19 Threatens Healthcare, Education (March 17, 2020)
Click to expand more filings & letters.
- Letter to the FCC (Notice of Ex Parte) supporting the retention of the eligibility rules that currently preserve the educational and public interest purposes of the EBS Spectrum. (May 1, 2019)
- ALA Official Filings Archive
- Coalition Letter to NTIA urging expanded access to spectrum for commercial use
- Coalition Letter to FCC expressing concern on undercounts in the agency's BEAD broadband mapping (November 28, 2022)
- Coalition Letter to FCC in support of exploration of a Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-style spectrum sharing model (November 17, 2022)
- Coalition Letter to Congressional leadership calling for $1 billion in additional appropriation for the FCC's Emergency Connectivity Fund (October 27, 2022)
- Coalition letter to Congressional Commerce Committee leadership calling for renewal of FCC spectrum auction authority with broader aims (October 2022)
- Coalition Letter to Congressional leadership urging action to stop Department of Transportation efforts to subvert FCC analysis (March 29, 2022)
- Coalition Letter to FCC urging extension of the Emergency Connectivity Fund & changes to the program rules (January 28, 2022)
- Coalition Letter to policymakers urging the repair of the FCC's Universal Service Fund contribution mechanism (November 29, 2021)
- Correspondence Archive
Staff Contact Information
Deputy Director, Public Policy & Advocacy
Senior Director, Public Policy & Government Relations