In March 2021, TSLAC conducted its fourth Texas Public Library Speed Test, which provided a snapshot of public library Internet speeds across Texas. As we had done in 2016, 2017, and 2019, we provided an online network speed test tool for public libraries throughout Texas to test the Internet speed at each of their locations on a wired public access computer. The results (download and upload speed in Megabits per second, or Mbps) were automatically recorded for TSLAC to compile. For the 2021 test, 62% of accredited public libraries in Texas participated. Network speeds from 444 locations were collected, representing 314 main libraries.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlined broadband targets for libraries and schools participating in the E-rate program in the E-rate Modernization Order. The Order adopted the following targets recommended by ALA (American Library Association):
- 100 Mbps or greater – libraries serving fewer than 50,000 people
- 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) or greater – libraries serving more than 50,000 people
In a separate action, the FCC recommended a minimum speed of 25 Mbps per household in 2015.
At the conclusion of the Texas Public Library Speed Test, TSLAC cross-referenced the collected data to the FCC’s broadband targets based on respondents’ population size.
Since the last test in December 2019, there has been a:
- 3% increase of libraries meeting the FCC standards for their population size
- 5% increase of libraries now exceeding 25 Mbps download (the minimum FCC benchmark for households)
- 7% increase of smaller libraries now meeting their benchmark of at least 100 Mbps download
- 26% increase of larger libraries now higher than 100 Mbps and less than 1 Gbps
TSLAC’s efforts the last few years to promote high speed Internet and E-rate discounts to public libraries, as well as its successful Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT) program, have had a noticeable impact.
But we still have a way to go. The test results indicate that as much two-thirds of Texas public libraries are below national broadband standards for libraries. In addition, 18% of reporting Texas public libraries did not meet the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband for individual households (25 Mbps). The 82 libraries that did not meet this minimum standard serve over 4 million Texans. Public libraries providing patron computers and Wi-Fi access face greater demands than household networks, requiring faster speeds for patrons to efficiently access distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities. The pandemic has only further put the disparities of access in stark relief.
Thank you to the public libraries for participating in TSLAC’s public library speed tests. We plan to conduct more in the future to measure impact and help us determine the current statewide needs for broadband. Collecting this data on regular basis benefits the entire Texas library community and will help us as we work to ensure that every Texan has the Internet access they need.