FCC, Labor Department Partner to Expand Digital Literacy Training at 2,800 Centers

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Connect2Compete, a public-private partnership spearheaded in 2011 by the Federal Communications Commission to hasten the national adoption of broadband in the United States, will work with the Department of Labor to provide digital literacy training at nearly 2,800 employment and training centers operated by the agency, officials announced July 16.

Connect2Compete will train employees at the Labor Department's American Job Centers on the nonprofit's services, including discounted broadband internet access service and refurbished laptops.

Later this year, the partnership will launch a nationwide digital literacy database, which will be available both online and through a toll-free phone call, and promoted by a nationwide advertising campaign by the Ad Council.

“Offline Americans are missing out on education opportunities, health care opportunities, and, yes, job opportunities,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at an event at the Arlington, Va., Department of Human Services Arlington Employment Center. “In today's world, you need broadband to find a job, apply for a job, and you need digital skills to keep most of today's jobs. Almost all Fortune 500 companies post job openings exclusively online.”

The FCC attributes non-adoption rates to, among other things, cost, low education, and a lack of digital literacy.

Based on studies conducted by the FCC, less than a third of the poorest Americans subscribe to broadband, while nearly 90 percent of the nation's more prosperous individuals do.

According to a 2010 FCC survey, less than half of the adults with high school degrees are broadband users at home, while 82 percent of adults who have attended or graduated from college use broadband at home. Scarcely more than half of Americans in households with annual incomes of $50,000 or below have broadband service at home, compared with 87 percent of those in households with incomes above that level.

In the same study, the FCC found that nearly 25 percent of non-adopters of broadband are “uncomfortable with computers” and said they lack the necessary skill sets needed to surf the web. Another 19 percent questioned the relevance of broadband to their lives. Some said the internet is a “waste of time” while the dial-up internet users surveyed said they are content with their current services.

Another study by the Digital Impact Group and Econsult Corporation estimates that the direct economic cost to the nation of non-adoption is $55 billion a year.

By Paul Barbagallo  

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