The National Broadband Plan (NBP) recently announced by the Federal Communication Commission visualizes a significantly enhanced commitment to public computing centers (PCCs) as an element of the Commission's plans for promoting broadband availability. In parallel, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has channelized part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to PCCs. However, BTOP funding was the result of an unprecedented economic crisis, and is unlikely to be repeated. Future programs will need to evolve criteria for selecting projects for funding that maximize their cost-effectiveness. We argue in this paper that basing funding for PCCs on broadband availability (or non-availability), is not as cost-effective as considering a broader array of factors related to demand for internet access at public computer centers. We use data on public libraries from the National Center of Educational Statistics to identify factors predicting high demand for internet access at PCCs. Based on this analysis, we argue that low demand markets may benefit more from consumer outreach and digital literacy programs, than from infrastructure deployment. Also, we argue that markets with high availability, should receive more funding if there is high demand as well, as predicted by our model.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Library and Information Sciences