ALA Says Public Libraries Are One Key Solution to Broadband Adoption

Broadband Updates, Broadband's Impact, National Broadband Plan December 3rd, 2009

, BroadbandBreakfast.com

The American Library Association on Wednesday submitted comments (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission addressing broadband adoption. The ALA filed the comments in response to the FCC’s call for input about adoption as it relates to the National Broadband Plan.

The comments seek to address concerns about measuring broadband adoption, the societal cost of non-adopters, and identifying and remedying barriers to adoption.

The ALA focused on the role that public libraries can play, not only improving access to broadband, but increasing digital literacy and breaking down those barriers to adoption. Libraries have a long history of tailoring their services to meet the needs of patrons and helping citizens participate in a digital world simply follows that pattern, the ALA said.

“Access to broadband alone does not constitute adoption. There are three factors that must be present to ensure adoption:

  1. ease of use,
  2. individual comfort with technology, and
  3. an ability to find, utilize, and, increasingly, create relevant content.

The implicit goal of the national broadband plan is not to have the infrastructure in place to provide access to the Internet, but rather to ensure that every individual can benefit from the resources made available by that infrastructure.”

Public libraries could play a unique role in the achievement of that goal, said the ALA.

“Public libraries offer formal, no-fee technology training and point-of-need assistance to anyone who comes into the library,” says Marijke Visser, information technology policy analyst for ALA’s Office for Technology Policy (OITP).

“As more critical resources, such as job applications and government services, are available primarily online, the societal cost of not being able to access these resources increases dramatically. We encourage the FCC to consider the support and teaching libraries provide. It is critical that the FCC includes libraries in the national broadband plan in order to ensure that libraries have high-capacity broadband necessary to provide these services.”

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