Broadband, especially of the high-capacity variety, once mostly the province of network engineers and large organizations, is now everyone’s concern. Whether at home, school, on the job, or walking down the street, speedy response in using the Internet is the new normal. For libraries, this need and expectation is even more pronounced.
Contemporary libraries provide a diverse set of services in communities nationwide. Libraries help people find and apply for jobs and government services online. Libraries provide assistance with learning, whether helping students with their homework or supporting multimedia content creation and dissemination for self-learners—whether children, senior citizens, or anyone in-between. Libraries enable access to an eclectic information menu, from health, medicine and household finance to personal avocations of every sort. An increasing number of activities rely on high-capacity broadband, such as those that use video conferencing and streaming media. This reliance on broadband will only increase.
Thus, libraries need broadband to provide the services fundamental to their mission. And most fundamental is ensuring digital inclusion for all. Close to 30% of U.S. households still do not have broadband services. Libraries are the institutions across the country—in big cities and small towns—best equipped to provide public Internet access along with digital content and digital literacy support. Indeed, more than 62 percent of libraries report that they are the only provider of no-fee access to computers and the Internet in their communities.
Another way to think about it is in terms of leverage. A single broadband connection to one library provides access for thousands of people over the course of a year. And with these Internet connections come the full range of resources and expertise that libraries and librarians offer. Bolstering broadband investment in libraries is truly a fabulous way to leverage scarce community and national resources and support local economies.
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