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Digital Access

November 28, 2011

Libraries provide access to the digital world in two ways. One is physical connection to the Internet, and the other is content.

Right now, our library buys online access to downloadable audiobooks, as well as journals, genealogy information, language instruction, testing practice and instruction, etc.

Next month, we’ll start lending e-books for devices such as the Nook and the Kindle. An odd twist in this new service is that you won’t be able to use the library computers for downloading e-books.

It has to do with digital rights, licenses, and registration, and so you’ll need to connect your e-readers to your own computers. It will be most convenient for readers with their own Internet access at home, but it’s not required.

The library’s physical connection to the Internet remains an important service. It is shared by a lot of people, and they use it for a variety of reasons—mostly because it’s cheap and relatively fast.

L and I use it because we enjoy not having Internet in our home. You could use the library’s wireless Internet access to download e-books if you came in with your laptop, but you have to have the laptop.

E-reading takes a bit more than just an e-reader. Even the Amazon Kindle, which can connect to Amazon without a computer, requires something more to make use of that particular convenience: an ample credit card.

High-speed Internet access is a necessity these days in the lives of many people. Business and banking require it, for internal operations as well as connecting with customers. Modern telephones require it. Modern schooling and continuing education requires it.

And consumers require it. The Internet is recreation as well as marketplace. It’s even taken the place of the telephone for some people.

The Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) has started a project called “ChaffeeConnect” to improve Internet services in the county. The CCEDC sees high-quality broadband service as crucial to economic growth in our region.

Good broadband access is important not just for distance workers and “lone eagles,” and not just for modern distance education or streaming movies from NetFlix, but also for existing, traditional businesses.

Monarch Ski Area and the Mt. Princeton Lodge, as examples, are important employers in our economy, and they are hamstrung by thin threads of connection to the Internet. Customers are used to bigger pipes, to constant cell phone access, to instant credit card transactions.

One might be tempted to say to such customers, “Hey, you’re on a mountain; lighten up,” but that’s not very helpful to business. And those businesses can barely complete credit card transactions on a busy day.

For the CCEDC, the issue is not just the size of the pipe but also the number of them. Ideally, we would have redundancy in our local Internet connections—several ways in and out of the valley so that one cut cable doesn’t take down everything: phone, cell phone, Internet.

Thus, ChaffeeConnect is looking at working with new providers and alternative technology, trying to increase broadband competition as well as increase redundancy.

Things aren’t too bad in town with options for DSL, cable, and wireless Internet connections, although we pay higher prices for less service than in cities. However, one-third of our library district population lies outside town, and the options are fewer.

Remote living has many compromises and costs, but network connection doesn’t have to be a big one. If you’re interested in the goals of ChaffeeConnect, go to http://chaffeecountyedc.com. Or call Wendell Pryor or Susan Jesuroga at the CCEDC.

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