Surveying people online about their access to Internet service presents something of a Catch-22.
Tennesseans are being encouraged to participate in a survey conducted by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) about Internet access, particularly access to the high-speed version of the service. The problem is, the survey is online. But if you don't have service, you can still visit your public library to complete the survey.
ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd announced plans to conduct the survey among Tennessee residents and business owners through March 15. Based on the findings, ECD plans to make policy recommendations to Gov. Bill Haslam about how to increase high-speed Internet access statewide.
Many people across the state rely on public libraries for access to the Internet because they don't have computers at home or work.
All public libraries in Tennessee offer some type of Internet service to patrons. About three-fourths of them have access to high-speed Internet, with more scheduled to add the service this year. Secretary of State Tre Hargett said it's important for library Internet users to participate in this survey so ECD will get an accurate picture of where the greatest areas of need are.
"As the ways people get information have changed over the years, public libraries have become more than places where they can check out books," Secretary Hargett said. "In more cases than some of us might realize, libraries are really the only option for people who want to connect with the digital world. Libraries are where many people participate in online educational courses, create their resumes, apply for jobs and use the Internet in other important ways that directly impact their lives. That's why it's important for this survey to accurately reflect the type of Internet access available at those libraries."
Tennessee has nine regional library systems that provide training and support to 212 public libraries across the state. According to a recent poll, 151 of those libraries have high-speed connections and 46 more are scheduled to upgrade to high-speed by July.
"In this day and age, we believe it's important for all of our public libraries to have high-speed Internet service," State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. "We are moving toward that goal, but we're not there yet."
People can participate in ECD's assessment of Internet access by visiting www.tn.gov/broadband