Most people do not associate telecenters with the United States. That’s because they are called public libraries there. The Economist reports that more people are coming to the American telecenters because critical government and other services are increasingly available only through the web and because some people have dropped home connections in the hard times of the Great Recession.
The best way for America to ease the new strain on its libraries is by closing the digital divide; companies and state agencies are unlikely ever to give up the efficiencies they won by moving online. Around $7 billion of 2009’s stimulus went to expand broadband access. But encouraging competition among America’s expensive broadband providers, and hence lower prices for consumers, might do this more cheaply than subsidies.
So the sustainable solution is market provision under competitive conditions, not more subsidies to telecenters. We have been saying this for some time.