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Libraries Play an Important Role During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Say FCC Workshop Participants

Elijah Labby

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Photo of public library in Washington D.C. by JuliaC2006 used with permission

August 3, 2020 — Libraries are important tools for increasing internet access during the coronavirus pandemic, said participants in an Federal Communications Commission workshop Monday.

Rudy Brioché, vice president for global public policy at Comcast, said that conversations about current legislative issues need to center around widespread broadband access.

“We need to make sure that the incredible use of broadband is part of that discussion and how we bridge that divide between those who actually adopt and use and those who do not adopt or use broadband,” he said.

Nicole Umayam, digital inclusion library consultant at Arizona State Library, spoke positively about the role hotspots play in closing the digital divide.

“We’ve seen a lot of libraries want to continue that service and year after year and continue to apply for funding,” Umayam said. “In 2019, the Prescott Valley Public Library reported that Wi Fi hotspots were the number one most checked out item over all books and DVDs.”

Other participants said that funding was crucial for the libraries’ continued assistance to affected families.

“It’s somebody that’s been an embarrassment of riches in Washington D.C.,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the Washington D.C. Public Library “There are very few large cities that have invested in libraries as D.C. has, but…especially now as the downturn is imminent, we have to make sure that the ongoing investment within the building is there.”

Brioché said that above all, getting individuals online is the most pressing issue that libraries face.

“And we recognize that the challenge to get people to not only adopt [broadband use] but also to stay online is an issue that becomes even more increasingly difficult in light of the current health and economic crises that many people are experiencing today,” he said.

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