Why is the Internet Slow? And What's the Library Doing About It?

Bandwidth Explosion

If you use the Library's public computers, you know that we have experienced a decrease in Internet connection speed. There are a number of reasons for this, several of which have been addressed. And we have isolated the cause of what we hope is the last remaining issue. The good news is that the Library now has a dedicated segment of the City and County of Denver's Internet connection.

This means we aren't competing for bandwidth with other City agencies, and our heavy Internet traffic (we have over 1,500 computers) is not interfering with the Sheriff, Courts or other agencies. The bad news is that this shift has yet to improve the connection speeds at our public computers and this is due to the way we currently filter the Internet. What is not news is that Internet traffic is growing exponentially worldwide. According to the annual Visual Networking Index Forecast, it will quadruple over the next four years. We know that we will need to continue to invest in this area.

The Denver Public Library complies with state and federal laws mandating the use of filtering software in public libraries. Internet filters are software programs that block access to content that is considered inappropriate for viewing in a public place. We employ filtering software to protect against the visual depiction of pornography, obscenity, and child pornography in accordance with our Computer and Internet Policy. We are looking at alternative filtering solutions to address the current speed issue. We realize it is difficult to get the most out of your allotted daily computer time when the Internet is slow.

For those of you who do not use public computers, you may wonder what responsibility the Library has to provide the Internet to the public. The Denver Public Library and other public libraries play an essential role in boosting people’s digital literacy skills and bridging the still-real digital divide. The Library accomplishes this through the provision of free and equal access to computers and the Internet, formal technology classes, scheduled in-depth technology appointments and informal point-of-need assistance.

Four in ten adult Americans do not have broadband Internet access at home, and of those who do, many do not have adequate broadband speeds to take advantage of new digital learning opportunities according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. A Denver Post article states, “The gap between the technological haves and have-nots, once defined by access to the computer hardware that drives high-tech learning, now centers on an information superhighway that too often recedes to the digital equivalent of rutted rural back roads.”

By inspiring individuals to explore, discover and learn throughout their lives, the Denver Public Library creates a more literate and engaged community. Providing technological avenues for this exploration, discovery and learning is one of the Library's priorities. We endeavor to improve the infrastructure and resources available.

Comments

Thanks for your comments and questions. Our network admins have been looking at all those variables. Bandwidth sharing was definitely not the only issue. As I mentioned the current filtering solution is the primary speed issue and we're looking at alternatives. Thanks for your suggestions!

Michelle,

Thank you for this informative post - I had often wondered if I was the only one who had slow Internet access while at the Central branch, though I never mentioned anything since the slow access meant only very infrequent access.

I have a couple of questions though - I understand speed may be constrained due to sharing of bandwidth, but was bandwidth sharing the only issue? Sometimes DNS settings can also profoundly impact how bandwidth hungry content (e.g., YouTube) is served from local (faster) sources vs. non-optimal (slower and resource hogging) locations. Also, are there any stats on what content consumes how much of the traffic by location or in the aggregate?

And this just in from Pew: Some 77% of all those ages 16 and older said it was very important for libraries to offer free access to computers and the internet to the community and another 18% said it was somewhat important. Just 2% said it was not too important and another 2% said it was not important at all.

http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/12/28/internet-access-at-libraries

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