In response to a request from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Science Foundation, this week ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, along with our partners at the Benton Foundation, filed comments on the National Broadband Research Agenda. The NTIA’s Request for Comment (RFC) asked for help identifying the data and research needs in the areas of broadband technology and innovation and prioritizing research proposals can foster access and adoption of broadband across unserved and underserved groups of people.
Among a number of things, we recommended that the NTIA and NSF “ensure that research addresses the needs of unserved and underserved groups (e.g., seniors, low-income families, persons with disabilities, people living in rural areas) that market actors usually ignore in the development of new broadband technologies.”
With explicit regard to libraries, the comments advised that the National Broadband Research Agenda:
- “investigate the role of mobile Wi-Fi hotspot lending programs in libraries across the U.S. to promote broadband adoption and utilization inside and outside the home.”
- “investigate, through qualitative research, the role of public libraries in promoting broadband adoption in rural areas across the U.S… [to] build on recent quantitative research, which shows that higher rates of broadband adoption can be found in rural areas with public libraries.”
- “identify the role of anchor institutions and community organizations in supporting long-term social and economic development goals through their broadband adoption and utilization programs.”
- “fund cross-disciplinary research, particularly across the fields of education, social work, community health, and library and information science, to deepen our understanding of the non-price barriers to broadband access, adoption, and use… [which] could also help to create solutions to the persistent challenges facing individuals and families from low-income and other vulnerable populations.”
OITP will continue to engage with allies and the NTIA to advance an inclusive broadband research agenda.