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Friday, June 12, 2009

Digital media literacy part of Washington's groundbreaking broadband plans

Promoting Internet adoption, digital inclusion, and digital media literacy is essential making universal broadband access successful. We don't put drivers behind the wheel without training. Likewise, we shouldn't give away Internet access without providing the tools & training to take advantage of it in productive, responsible, beneficial and entertaining ways.

During this most recent tough legislative session, our state took a big step towards achieving this thanks to the passage of House Bill 1701 which authorizes the state Department of Information Services (DIS) to move us closer to universal broadband adoption. This victory for technological equality was made possible thanks to the leadership of Representative Bob Hasegawa and the tireless effort of advocates like Reclaim the Media Executive Director Jonathan Lawson.

Funded in part by Federal ARRA dollars, the law has 3 pillars:
  1. Digital Literacy: It establishes a Community Technology Opportunity Program (CTOP) to promote Internet adoption, digital inclusion and digital media literacy in low-income and underserved areas of the state. Such a program has no precedent in its scope, and it is predicated on the principle of empowerment as a key component of adoption. According to Lawson, CTOP will operate in ways similar to the City of Seattle's Community Technology Center program.

  2. Digital Inclusion: It establishes the Council on Digital Inclusion, giving a new title and mandate to the State's High-Speed Internet Working Group. The Council members will be from both the public and private sector, and they will focus on adoption and usage of broadband in addition to deployment.

  3. Coverage Mapping: It tasks DIS with the current availability of broadband throughout the state and work with other agencies to identify the communities most in need of new or additional broadband Internet services. There was contention over whether these maps should be public or remain the property of private entities assisting in the process, but in the end no mandate was included to make this information public.
The law goes into effect on July 1st, 2009.

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