FCC announces free computer-training partnership with Best Buy, Microsoft

As part of the FCCs initiative, electronics retailer Best Buy will puts its 20,000 Geek Squad agents to work training people in basic digital skills. The program will begin in 20 cities over the next year, with plans to expand. The Geek Squad will also work with community groups to train people how to teach others about using computers and the Internet.

Microsoft will offer training through schools, libraries and community colleges in basic computer skills, including how to use its Microsoft Office applications. The program will begin in 15 states over the next three years. Microsoft will also offer an online training center with videos and simple instructions.

Genachowski noted that in some areas around the country, there are as many job openings as there are people searching for jobs. The problem is that too many Americans lack the basic computer skills that these jobs require, he said.

Job search website Monster.com will identify middle-skill jobs for which there are more openings than qualified candidates and list the skills that those jobs require. Monster.com will also provide job-search tools tailored to users without much Internet experience.

Although millions of Americans, most in rural areas, lack access to high-speed Internet, millions more have chosen not to adopt it. Genachowski said only 67 percent of Americans use broadband, compared with 90 percent in South Korea and Singapore. 

The digital divide is more troubling than ever because the costs of digital exclusion are rising, he said.

In an interview with The Hill, Genachowski acknowledged that the initiative will not do much to help Americans who havent adopted broadband because of its cost. He said the Connect to Compete plan is aimed at teaching Americans why broadband is important and giving them the skills to use the Internet effectively. He said he will have more to say about addressing cost issues in the coming weeks.

Other companies participating in the FCCs initiative include Careerbuilder.com, MetrxLearning, Brainfuse, Arise Virtual Solutions, Discovery Education and Sesame Workshop.

The FCC on Wednesday also announced a Digital Literacy Corps. The program will include new library and school computer-training courses and instructors. According to a Gates Foundation study, 38 percent of libraries offer digital literacy classes. Genachowski said he hopes to double that figure.