Impacts of the Broadband Telecommunication Opportunities Program in Michigan Urban Communities
24 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2013 Last revised: 23 Dec 2015
Date Written: August 15, 2013
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) was used to increase broadband adoption and utilization across the United States as part of the economic recovery after the 2008 recession. Part of this act implemented a program called the Broadband Telecommunication Opportunities Program (BTOP), which focused on expanding effective broadband utilization in underserved communities through the development of library-based public computing centers and other educational outreach. This paper reports the results of two waves of surveys of 400 participants each, spanning 18 months, which were conducted in urban communities in Michigan served by libraries participating in a $6M BTOP grant project to upgrade their public Internet resources. The surveys tracked perceptions of broadband services and their utilization in public libraries, residences, and other community locations.
One of the major questions going into this project was whether or not urban poor residents were adopting and utilizing broadband through either a private connection or a public connection. If the former, then results would indicate a similar trend among urban poor as seen in the rest of the world. That is, home adoption of fixed landline broadband connections will be lower in our sample than in more wealthy areas, but mobile adoption of broadband devices and services would be increasing. The second question, with libraries across the U.S. losing funding and reducing hours, would be whether the implementation of programs and new computing centers from the ARRA BTOP increase broadband adoption and utilization leading to economic recovery in these urban poor communities?
Over three-fifths of those surveyed as the project drew to a close were aware of the public computing center initiative at their local library, although only about one tenth were active participants. Among those using library computers at the time of the final survey, about a fourth indicated that they had noticed an improvement in library computing facilities.
The above findings suggest that, while library access, public computing centers, and broadband awareness increases adoption of broadband at the home and mobile level. Thus, in order to increase broadband use among urban poor, other considerations may need to be adopted in addition to increased outreach and awareness projects about library broadband use.
Keywords: broadband adoption, broadband intentions, libraries, public computing centers, PCCs, digital literacy
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