As we all know, every aspect of life (virtual learning, telehealth, government services, shopping, remote work, and global communications) is impacted by access to fast, reliable, and affordable high-speed internet services.
But did you know that an estimated 1.2M households in Michigan struggle with internet connectivity or do not have any internet access at home?
This is where Michigan libraries can help!
Michigan libraries serve a significant and critical role in their communities to bridge the digital divide, offering safe and welcoming environments for those to access technology on a daily basis. Struggling families count on public, school, and academic libraries to provide computer access, hotspots, and WiFi connectivity to those without or with limited service in their geographic region. It should also be noted that libraries play a significant role in digital learning and digital literacy – empowering users to understand the positive and negative impacts of communicating in the 21st century.
Broadband access is an urgent need, and its importance has only intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With much of the workforce shifting to a virtual or hybrid work environment and nearly every child participating in some form of remote learning, the need for fast, reliable broadband access for all has never been more apparent.
High-speed internet is a necessity in our educational, professional, and personal lives and we must ensure that everyone in our state has access to an affordable, reliable high-speed connection that meets their needs and the skills to use it effectively no matter where they access it. As Tracie D. Hall, the Executive Director of the American Library Association has expressed so eloquently, “We await a future where broadband access is no longer an on-demand luxury for those who can afford it, but a public service for all who need it.”
The Michigan Library Association and our library members are strong proponents that continued investment in broadband infrastructure and digital literacy must be planned for collectively and an investment must be made to increase the technological reach of Michigan libraries. Utilizing the federal infrastructure resources that the Michigan legislature has earmarked for broadband from the American Rescue Plan, US Department of Treasury, Capital Projects Fund; strengthening and enhancing library broadband services must be included in the allocation of these significant resources.