There has been a shift in how libraries talk about providing access to the Internet for patrons: no longer is it just, “yes, we offer it,” but rather, “we offer high-speed broadband Ethernet connections and Wi-Fi.” However, there are many variations of what “high speed” constitutes, anywhere from 10 Megabits per second to 100.
As of February 2014, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s February 4th press release, fewer than 9% of public libraries had high-speed Internet access, which was defined as 10Mbps or higher. This year, 350 Wisconsin public libraries will be receiving broadband speed upgrades through state’s network, BadgerNet. The project is funded through a $4.2 million federal grant, and the broadband upgrades should start in April, with an anticipated completion date in November.
However, if this week’s readings could talk, they would probably shout, “access and speed is not the answer! Examine the underlying conditions that prevent media literacy.” While this thought may be passé to those who are information, education, and communication scholars, one may wonder if the general public believes that access will still alleviate all disparities in achievement or socio-economic status.
The Wisconsin State Journal wrote an article about this grant and the increase, and it appears to be a condensed version of the DPI’s press release, even lifting State Superintendent Tony Evers’s quote from the press release. The writer’s prose did not analyze or assess the situation, he just repeated the DPI’s circular. Though I will not take the time to deprecate the journalist’s lackadaisical work, I will mention one item: the press release talked about how the speed upgrade will allow libraries to offer more educational programming, and this was not included in the newspaper article. Evers said, “In addition to information flow, slow connections have limited libraries’ abilities to offer computer training and web conferencing.”
Gasper, Patrick. “Libraries to gain faster Internet access with broadband expansion.” Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. 4 February 2014. Web. 9 March 2014.
This press release details the project, and also offers a complete list of the public libraries receiving broadband speed upgrades.
Novak, Bill. “Faster Internet Service Coming to Wisconsin Public Libraries.” Wisconsin State Journal. 5 February 2014. Web. 9 March 2014.