May 16, 2022

FCC Chairman Talks About Schools, Libraries, and E-Rate During National Digital Learning Day Speech

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke this morning at Digital Learning Day at the Library of Congress.

Wheeler’s comments come two days after the FCC announced that they plan to double their investment in broadband for schools and libraries. More about the plan in this infoDOCKET post.

Selected Passages from the Speech (Full Text Embedded Below)

Three technological changes have increased the need for bandwidth in our schools and libraries.

First, inexpensive tablets turn the computer from something in the corner of the classroom (or in the computer lab down the hall), to something on each student’s desk. Second, WiFi means connecting to the Internet is no longer a function of being close enough to the plug on the wall. Finally, the content on the Web has a richness and an up-to-dateness that is available to everyone, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances.


Along with the great technological revolutions of two decades ago came another development: the Digital Divide.


While we talk a lot about the connected school, we cannot overemphasize the crucial role of the connected library. Public libraries have been part of the fabric of America since our country’s founding. Thomas Jefferson, whose personal library was the founding collection of this great institution, described a library as, “a delivery room for the birth of ideas.” Today libraries are also something Mr. Jefferson could never have imagined: the community on-ramp to the world of information (although perhaps I misspeak,he was after all Thomas Jefferson!).

In community after community the library is the only place where students can go after school for free Internet access to complete their assignments. Research has found that a majority of American school children go to the public library to do school work. And for many of those students, it is the only link to the Net outside of school. That is really important when over 75% of K-12 teachers are assigning Internet required homework. And during the summer, libraries are the only place for many students to go to continue their online exploration and learning. Libraries are also the only place where tens of millions of adult Americans can get access to the Internet for information on jobs, health care and government services.

The E-Rate is a program for schools and libraries. Or, let me put it another way: libraries and schools.

Prepared Remarks of Tom Wheeler Chairman, Federal Communications Commission National Digital Learning Day The Library of Congress February 5, 2014

Wheeler’s speech is also available in other formats via the FCC web site.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.