You probably heard. The Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its survey on broadband internet adoption in the US. The results are illuminating and lots of people having been saying that the results illustrate how important public libraries are to filling in the gap. I completely agree.
And yet, a lot of discourse on the topic of broadband adoption and cell phone adoption is mired in conversations about income level and education. As an employee of an institution of higher education, in a place where my college library is also a public library, making a good salary and possessing a somewhat absurd level of education, I feel compelled to tell you that getting good internet and cell phone coverage out here is not always a matter of lack of desire. We only got reliable, campus-wide cell phone coverage in the last five years. This was the result of a Verizon executive who took his family on vacation on Upper St. Regis and was flabbergasted to find out that they couldn’t use their cell phones or email up here. A new tower was built which serves some of the surrounding area including campus, but it does not extend far enough to serve the road running right alongside campus where some of our faculty live. While some people would certainly choose to live without cell phone or internet, others would really like to have it but can’t get it. I’d certainly like to get reliable cell coverage in my very nice apartment located in the center of the most densely populated area in the region, but I’m lucky to get through a whole conversation with my family without the call being dropped. True story: I get better cell phone coverage on the top the local mountains than I do in my apartment. Sometimes, it’s not about income level or education. Sometimes is about the specific geography and circumstances of where you live.
Some of us without reliable broadband or cell service know what we’re missing, wish we had it, and, until they invent satellite signals that bend around geographic features, won’t be getting it. More truth: I make decisions on where I want to live here based partially on whether or not I can get internet, and, boy, am I grateful for the local public libraries (including my own) who truly do fill in the gaps.