How to increase public Internet access

The Davis public library does not have enough public access Internet computers for all those who want to use the Internet. This page has a number of suggestions on how the library and other institutions can provide more public Internet access in Davis. Many of these ideas can be applied anywhere in the world

On another page I have written a collection of suggestions for using public access more efficently: use the other machines around town, heavy users can get home access, and users can type their e-mail at home and then simply up load it at the library. These suggestions could decrease the demand, this web page has suggestions for increasing supply.

Add more access at the public library

Public libraries need more public access to the Internet. While many of the computers in schools are not used much of the time those in the library recieve constant use.

Adding more computers to the library would be further justified because it serves the needs of the community and the traditional objectives of libraries. Libraries have traditionally tried to increase literacy. Libraries encourage people to learn to read by providing free reading material, and they provide reading material so people can practice. E-mail gives people practice at writing, which is the other part of being literate.

Furthermore, the computers at the library provide practice with important software programs. As learning software packages like Microsoft Word is one of the most important job skills in our society, library public access helps create a more skilled work force.

Library public access serves the community in many other ways and therefore its expansion is justified.

Besides simply adding more Internet machines the library could add some computers that do not access the Internet. If they did, people could do their word processing without using one of the Internet terminals. A non-Inernet computer could also be used to compose e-mail. The e-mail could then be transfered by a floopy disk to the Internet computers. A person who wanted to e-mail could use the 15 minute machine and only tie up an Internet computer for a few minutes.

It also might help if we had more Internet access outside the library. Here are some suggestions for that.

Grocery Stores

The Davis Food CO-OP has a machine and they seem to be fairly pleased with it. I believe it would be profitable, perhaps very profitable, for super markets to provide free Internet access. If a customer comes in to check their e-mail and buys 40 dollars worth of groceries the store would be 8 dollars ahead. Supermarkets usually have a 20 percent mark up. They buy food for 80 cents and sell if for a dollar. The Internet could be a cost effective way to bring in extra business.

The Davis Community Network might be able to help local grocery stores to do this.

Perhaps the small local chains like Nugget could be convinced to try this. It is often easier to convince a small company to try something innovative because you can talk to the decision makers, but it would make even more sense for the big chains like Safeway. The big chains could try the idea in Davis and then expand it thoughout their operations if it increased profits. For both big and small chains we can say failure is temporary, success is permanent, because if it works you keep doing it and if it fails you drop it, but for the big chains we can say failure is local and temporary, success is permanent and national.

Other big stores

Other big stores like Longs, Rite-Aid, and Davis Ace could also make a profit by offering free Internet access.

People do not like to use Internet access unless they are a customer of the store. They have a harder time rewarding a small store or a store with specialized products, so the machine will often sit unused. The machine will not attract customers unless it is used.

We can see the advantage the more general store has by comparing Newsbeat to The End Zone. People use the computer at Newsbeat which sells magazines, and snacks but were reluctant to use the machine at The End Zone which sells sports and fantasy cards. Almost the only people to use The End Zone computer were the customers, so it was not used much.

Also, people do not want to use Internet access at a business that sells big ticket items. Almost no one used the public access at Heron Technologies which sold computers. They do not want their big ticket decisions colored by a sense of obligation. They want to buy small ticket items that they would be buying anyway, but perhaps at a competitive store.

Small stores maybe able to make more profits by providing free Internet access. Perhaps it will draw enough additional business to be worth while, big stores probably can make larger profits. Groups of stores, for example shoping centers, and malls, and down town associations might make larger profits if public Internet access is provided. I would suggest a big sign on the machine that says the access is provided by the group of stores, not just the individual store so customers of any of the stores will feel free to use it.

If stores do offer Internt access they would be wise to limit users to a few minutes use, 15 minutes is normal. Furthermore, a chair should not be provided. The store wants people to come in use the machine for a few minutes and shop. Big jobs can be handled at the library and other government buildings. I suggest that stores should add to the sign giving directions on the computer that longer jobs can be done at the local library.

If other people are using the machine a computer user may shop until the computer is free. I do this all the time at the Davis Food CO-OP. This is another way that a computer can increase sales.

I would suggest the stores' machine should be good enough that people actually want to use it, it does not make money unless it used, but it is fine if it is not quite as good as the library. Once again we do not want to encourage people to use the machine beyond the time limit.

In store e-mail machines would be useful for Davis, because if people just want to search the Internet the University provides plenty of access.

Thrift shops

Thrift shops might be another interesting place for Internet access. As they are usually charitable organizations they could ask for contributions from the richer users. Perhaps there could be a box with a slot where users could slip a quarter. The poor people could simply use it for free, as helping the poor is often part of the thrift shops mission.

This might be a very interesting experiment for a thrift shop. If it worked it might become a new source of thrift shop income and service nation and perhaps world wide. As I argued above, failure is temporary and local, success is permanent and world wide, because if it works you continue and expand the process, if it fails you drop it.

Surf while you wait

Businesses which require us to wait might offer Internet access for their waiting customers. Check your e-mail while you wait for a hair cut, or a resturant meal. Laundry mats, particularly those that have some one working on site might be another possiblity.

Some apartment complexes and trailer parks offer Internet access. If more apartment complexes and trailer parks offered this service it might take some preasure off the library. It also might help if more people used these resources.

Organizations could provide access for members

Perhaps some churches should offer Internet access for their members. I spend much of my Internet time accessing religious web sites and writing religious web pages. Internet access would make a nice addition to the library. Perhaps one could set up a volunteer system where a church member keeps the library open for everyone and is allowed Internet access in compensation.

Internet access could also be a nice service for other organizations. Perhaps organizations like the Moose could offer it. Also it might be an interesting addition for fitness clubs, like 24 hour fitness.

Improving the access we have

In addition to finding more places for public access the ones we have could be improved. In some cases the rules are too limiting. The community needs more places to check e-mail.

Furthermore some governmental organizations put time limits on machines that are not being used nearly enough. We want to move the use away from the library, so we want to encourage, not discourage, use at sites away from the public library.

As mentioned above, I am all infavor of time limits at stores. The store's objective is to attract customers and short sessions are best for that.

On the other hand some more restrictions at the public library might be useful. If games were banded at the public library that might go a long way to solving the problem. During the school year high school and junior high students can use computers and play games on them after school at the school libraries. There are plenty of machines for this.

Furthermore the teen center has an Internet machine where they can play games, and they have had a video game in the past and may get one in the future. If you have a game machine you could donate it to them. One staff member suggested that a last generation machine, like the Playstation 1, might be more useful than this generation's Playstation 2 because they could afford to get some games.

Note that I am not against games, I love them, but it would be reasonable to discourage games on the public library adult computers because there are so many people who want to use those computers.

Let me note again that the community really needs more e-mail machines, so if we restrict use, let us not restrict that.

Another thing that might help is more machines at locations other than the library. Perhaps the reason the library is so popular is there are several machines so people figure they will be able to get on quickly. You can usually get right on the other machines around town because no one is using them, but if someone is using them you might have to wait a while at a place which has only one machine. Perhaps use could be greatly increased if there was more than one machine in some of these places.

Let me note that there are an unlimited number of machines at the University and two for seniors at the senior center. Also City Hall is right down the street from the Senior Center so if one is used the other maybe free.

Setting up more computer access might be an interesting idea for Lugod, the Linux users group of Davis. There is one Linux machine at the Davis Community Television office, but it is such a slow machine that it is rarely used and does not effectively encourage Linux use.

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