4th February 2013
Who does a better job of serving poor and low-income Americans and students by providing free, high-speed Internet access to those who can’t afford it at home – the government or the market?
Well, there are 15,000 Wi-Fi-enabled public libraries in the country that provide free Internet access. But many public libraries are closed when people and students actually want to access the Internet, like in the evenings, on weekends and on holidays.
The WSJ points out today that McDonald’s has 12,000 Wi-Fi-equipped locations in the U.S., and Starbucks has another 7,000, and they both offer free access, even for those who don’t buy anything. Unlike public libraries, McDonald’s and Starbucks are open in the evenings, on weekends and most holidays.
In terms of addressing the “digital divide” or “Internet gap in education,” you could make a case that the profit-maximizing, private sector is doing a better job than the public sector – McDonald’s and Starbucks have more locations and longer hours than the limited-access public library system.
And you can’t get a Big Mac at the Library, should the urge strike you. In fact, they discourage people eating and drinking there.