Broadband is the key to success in the 21st century

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 8:45pm
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The following was submitted by Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann:

I was asked by the Broadband Committee to write something for the paper this week about the library’s need for better internet. And while I am able to cite incidences and produce statistical information that would illustrate that need, what I really wanted to share was a bigger picture.  So I started doing some research. After working my way through loads of information on the American Library Association’s website, I discovered a national advocacy organization dedicated to promoting broadband connections for anchor institutions and their communities: the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition. 

As the Block Island Broadband Committee focuses its next steps on connecting our own anchor institutions, I thought this was appropriate to share. These excerpts come from a letter dated May 10, 2017, written to President Trump from the SHLB membership. The letter in its entirety can be found on the SHLB website at shlb.org.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

“Like train tracks in the 19th century and highways in the 20th century, broadband networks are the foundation for economic growth in the 21st century and beyond. In fact, broadband is often considered a “meta-infrastructure” that enhances transportation, electricity, agriculture, and all other infrastructure.  Creating a nationwide network of state-of-the-art cyber-infrastructure in every city and town all across America will propel the United States forward as the world leader in business, education, and health.  

Schools, libraries, health providers and other anchor institutions should be key beneficiaries of any broadband investment initiative. 

Connecting our anchor institutions is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure that every community in America has access to high-quality broadband. While residential deployment connects one household at a time, deploying broadband to a school or library or health clinic benefits the entire community. 

We support residential broadband access and believe that every home should have affordable, high-speed Internet access. Building high-capacity broadband to all the anchor institutions is a cost-effective step toward that goal.    

Anchor institution broadband not only benefits populations most in need but the economy as a whole. Broadband access creates an economic multiplier effect by improving job creation, increasing innovation, and enabling entrepreneurs to tap into a global market no matter where their business is located. 

It has been shown that doubling broadband speeds can add 0.3 percent to GDP growth. In addition, demand for high-skilled workers is exceeding supply. Schools and libraries are the key providers of that necessary digital training. 

Unfortunately, schools, libraries, health clinics, and all other anchors are currently not up to speed, as shown by the following: 

• 41 percent of schools, representing almost half of the nation’s K-12 students, do not have enough capacity to meet the FCC minimum broadband standards, which means that students are unable to engage in online learning.             

• About 40 percent of libraries have a broadband connection that is 10 Mbps or less, which is far below the FCC minimum broadband standard that each library receive at least 100 Mbps.

  88 percent of non-metro health providers have less than a 50 Mbps connection, which means that they cannot implement telemedicine solutions to improve health care in rural areas.       

• Anchor institutions require greater bandwidth than residential users. If we do not build high capacity broadband to connect our anchor institutions, our nation’s education, health, and economy will suffer.”