Recently, the Investigative Reporting Workshop released a number of reports identifying the states and metropolitan areas that have the highest and lowest broadband subscriber rates. Not surprisingly, rural states and least wealthy metropolitan areas have the lower rates.
While not directly comparable, it is interesting to consider the Investigative Reporting Workshop reports to preliminary data from the Information Policy and Access Center for the American Library Association 2011-2012 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study .
But broadband “subscriber rates,” “connection speeds,” etc. can be messy metrics and the degree to which states, large metropolitan areas, and other communities (including the libraries in these areas) increase broadband capacity is complex.
Research recently completed at Florida State University’s Information Institute identified the following factors that affect subscribership and an organization’s readiness for better high-speed broadband capacity included:
- Ability to change to a different Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the competitiveness of the broadband market in a particular area.
- Availability of trained Information Technology (IT) staff.
- Quality of the internal network and capacity to use high speed broadband – including age of network and desktop equipment.
- Budget available to support costs for high-speed broadband, deployment, and operation.
- Administrative leadership and staff knowledge about broadband and its importance/use in the organization and to meet user needs.
- Existence and quality of an IT plan.
- Demand from staff and/or clientele for “better” high-speed broadband.
These findings are preliminary but they suggest that the degree to which community organizations such as libraries make decisions regarding broadband and the degree to which states, large metropolitan areas, and local communities subscribe, upgrade, or otherwise reduce the digital divide.
Although broadband costs are critical in “readiness” decisions, they are not the only factor to consider. In short, states or metropolitan areas interested in minimizing the digital divide and increasing the deployment and use of high-speed broadband will need a long-term strategy or plan that considers these (and other) local organizational factors.
Readers of this blog may wish to comment on the broadband readiness factors suggested above and the degree to which these (or other) factors have affected decisions in their library about upgrading their high-speed broadband.
Dr. McClure is the President of Information Management Consultant Services, LLC, email@example.com