Mourning the Loss of James Werle

Last week, we lost a member of our research team and a close friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to James Werle’s family and those closest to him. He will be missed. I hope that our work will help, at least in some small part, to continue his important contributions toward promoting broadband connectivity in public libraries and other community anchor institutions.

Here is the link to the announcement from Internet2.

Measuring Library Broadband Networks for the National Digital Platform

I am incredibly honored and excited to announce that last week I received an IMLS National Leadership Grant (#LG-71-18-0110-18) to work with my amazing colleagues Georgia Bullen and Chris Ritzo at New America’s Open Technology Institute and James Werle at Internet2 for the next two years to examine how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the U.S.

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

“Simmons College, along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, and Internet2, will examine how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the U.S. The project will gather quantitative and qualitative data from public libraries across the country to 1) understand the broadband speeds and quality of service that public libraries receive; 2) assess how well broadband service and infrastructure are supporting their communities’ digital needs; 3) understand broadband network usage and capacity; and 4) increase their knowledge of networked services and connectivity needs. The project deliverables include an open source and replicable broadband measurement platform, training manual to help public librarians use that platform, and a final report on the project.”

Visit the IMLS website to download our program materials to learn more about the project.

 

New Article by Sharon Strover on Rural Broadband

Sharon Strover (UT Austin) just published an excellent article over at The Conversation on the broadband challenges facing rural Americans. In the article, she mentions some of what we’ve learned through our research funded through a grant from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services to understand how rural libraries address the challenges of internet connectivity through wifi hotspot lending programs.

Here’s an excerpt:

In our work, we have found a lot of people on tight budgets figuring out how to use local Wi-Fi connections to download content onto their phones, so they use (and pay for) less mobile data. Public libraries, which generally have fast and free Wi-Fi, are popular options in rural areas. Many rural librarians have told us about people in their parking lots after hours simply using the library Wi-Fi. Those connections aren’t always the fastest, but are a testament to the efforts of public libraries over many years to provide their communities’ residents with computer and internet services.

Read the full article here.

New Article in D-Lib Magazine

My colleagues and I have a new article that was published this past week in D-Lib Magazine. The article, which is co-authored with Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University), and Alexis Schrubbe (University of Texas at Austin) presents early findings from our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) research grant, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform” (grant #RE-31-16-0014-16) which examines wireless hotspot lending programs in rural libraries in Kansas and Maine.

Here’s the abstract:

Libraries straddle the information needs of the 21st century. The wifi, computers and now mobile hotspots that some libraries provide their patrons are gateways to a broad, important, and sometimes essential information resources. The research summarized here examines how rural libraries negotiate telecommunications environments, and how mobile hotspots might extend libraries’ digital significance in marginalized and often resource-poor regions. The Internet has grown tremendously in terms of its centrality to information and entertainment resources of all sorts, but the ability to access the Internet in rural areas typically lags that experienced in urban areas. Not only are networks less available in rural areas, they also often are of lower quality and somewhat more expensive; even mobile phone-based data plans — assuming there are acceptable signals available — may be economically out of reach for people in these areas. With older, lower income and less digitally skilled populations typically living in rural areas, the role of the library and its freely available resources may be especially useful. This research examines libraries’ experiences with providing free, mobile hotspot-based access to the Internet in rural areas of Maine and Kansas.

Read the full article here.