New iPAC study analyzes public library presence on National Broadband Map

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The iPAC study, Public Libraries and the National Broadband Map: Findings and Recommendations, analyzes the Community Anchor Institution data maintained by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the National Broadband Map. Released in February 2011, the National Broadband Map is a searchable nationwide map of broadband Internet availability.

In addition to reviewing the Map’s public library broadband data, the report compares Map-reported data to data reported as part of the 2011-2012 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study (PLFTAS). The PLFTAS survey, funded by the American Library Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and managed by iPAC, provided a reference broadband data set for comparison purposes.

Key findings from the study include that: 1) there is a need for agreement on library types to be included in the Map; 2) there is a lack of consistency in data collection across the state mapping grantees; 3) there is a need for better integration and use of public library identifier data from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Service public library data files; 4) though there is reasonable agreement between the Map and PLFTAS broadband data, there are disparities at the state level; and 5) the Map continues to improve in terms of accuracy and utility with each successive release.

Public libraries have a particular need for broadband capacity due to their public access nature. As the de facto Internet social safety net for many, public libraries overlay core Internet-enabled services on top of their broadband connectivity. Unlike schools, for example, public libraries are open to the public and heavily relied upon in communities to providers of free public access to technology, broadband connectivity, and a range of services to build and foster digitally inclusive communities.

“Knowing the state of public library broadband connectivity is critical to informing policymakers about gaps in access in communities across the nation,” said John Carlo Bertot, iPAC co-director.

iPAC is working with the NTIA and the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy on continued improvements to the Map, particularly public library representation.

The full report is available at http://ipac.umd.edu/Files/CAI_NBM_final_15May2012.pdf.