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Saturday, September 28 • 11:45am - 12:20pm
Impacts of the Broadband Telecommunication Opportunities Program in Michigan Urban Communities

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One of the pillars of the Broadband Telecommunication Opportunities Program (BTOP) was expanding broadband utilization in underserved communities through the development of library-based public computing centers (PCCs) and educational outreach. This paper reports the results of two waves of surveys of 400 participants each in spring 2011, before the PCCs were implemented, and fall 2012, at the end of the program. The surveys were conducted in urban communities in Michigan served by libraries participating in a $6 million 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.

This study focuses on understanding how the utilization of library computers by community members impacted broadband adoption and utilization for upward mobility through education, work experience, and access to technology. Results indicated no changes between our two time-periods with respect to increased broadband awareness, home Internet access through either a computer or smartphone, or high speed home fixed-line broadband. Home fixed-line broadband access was more likely in households with higher incomes, a willingness to pay higher prices, and younger members than the rest of the sample.

We discovered clear indications of who considered broadband access and library use the most beneficial. African-Americans and male participants were more likely to indicate an intention to adopt broadband as a means of starting a small business and doing work at home than white or female participants. Gender had no effect on taking courses online, but African-Americans were more likely than whites to see potential in taking online courses over broadband networks. We also found that older participants and participants from Wave 2 were less likely than younger and Wave 1 participants to show intention to take online courses. Further, race, income, and self-efficacy (i.e., belief in one?s ability to use the Internet successfully) interacted to influence the nature of broadband use. Participants who were young, African-Americans, high self-efficacy and low household incomes were more likely to look for employment outside their home city using broadband than participants who were older, white, high income and low self-efficacy. Young African-Americans with high self-efficacy were also more likely than white and low self-efficacy participants to state that the ability to take online courses was an important benefit of broadband Internet.

Do library-based PCC facilities promote broadband utilization in urban settings? When controlling for age and point in time, library Internet use was more likely among African-Americans, low-income, and educated participants than white, high income, and less educated participants. PCC participants, defined as participants who reported using PCC facilities, were more likely to be younger, African-American, female, and have higher intentions to adopt broadband than non-PCC participants. Further, PCC participants were more likely than non-PCC participants to have intentions to use broadband to work at home and take courses online. Overall, 33.4% percent of the sample in Wave 2 reported using computers in their local library. Among these, 29.5% percent said they had noticed an improvement in PCC facilities.

Our data suggest that, while broadband adoption intentions and home use of Internet connections were unaffected by the PCC intervention, there are ways in which other types of Internet resources are being accessed by marginalized people. Future policy considerations from these analyses suggest that library Internet services can benefit minority, low-income individuals who have also participated in more years of education, who have intentions to utilize these resources for online courses, business endeavors, and employment. We conclude, based on the above evidence, that library Internet access, use and further developments of resources like PCCs will be crucial for future digital literacy programs.

avatar for Johannes M. Bauer

Johannes M. Bauer

Professor and Chairperson, Michigan State University
I am a researcher, writer and teacher interested in the digital economy, its governance as a complex adaptive systems, and the effects of the wide diffusion of mediated communications on society. Much of my work is international and comparative in scope. Therefore, I have great interest in policies adopted elsewhere and the experience with different models of governance. However, I am most passionate about discussing the human condition more... Read More →

Saturday September 28, 2013 11:45am - 12:20pm
GMUSL Room 225

Attendees (10)