Social Science Research Council finds libraries essential to breaking down broadband barriers


Jenni Terry

Press Officer

ALA Washington Office

(202) 628-8410

For Immediate Release

March 3, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Social Science Research Council (SSRC) report,

Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities,
released yesterday emphasizes the role of libraries and other community organizations in filling the gap between low home adoption and high community demand.

According to this independent research study, which was commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to analyze the factors shaping low rates of adoption of home broadband services in low-income and other marginalized communities, libraries and other support organizations often help users gain the skills that lead to confident, sustainable home broadband adoption. Yet, these support organizations are under severe financial pressure to meet community connectivity needs.

“Access to broadband is a basic requirement for social and economic inclusion,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office said.

“The ‘costs’ for those not able to go online have been raised significantly by the shift of critical services and life tasks, such as filing for unemployment benefits and filling out job applications. The American Library Association knows the role libraries play across the country in providing an avenue for Internet access to people from all economic levels and backgrounds – young, old, marginalized groups, the unemployed and the under-employed, those who are highly educated as well as those in the process of attaining a GED.”

The SSRC study found that public libraries are critical anchor institutions that enable social economic inclusion in many communities due to their role as primary providers of broadband access, training and support for those without broadband at home. The study suggests that supporting the mission with core technology funding and specialized staff is an efficient way of mitigating the high costs of digital exclusion.

Sheketoff said the SSRC study confirms research the ALA has compiled over the past several years in its multi-year project, the

Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study
, and verifies the importance of utilizing public libraries in the national broadband plan.

“It is reaffirming to know the FCC is informed of the barriers to adoption and the ways libraries support new and reluctant Internet users,” Sheketoff said.

“Incorporating libraries into the national broadband plan will assure that the plan truly is a national plan that reaches all people in every community and from all walks in life.”