Enabling Digital Access in Rural Communities

Capital One and the American Library Association are teaming up to help rural communities plug in

Capital One partnered with the American Library Association (ALA) to select 20 public libraries to participate in Community Connect: Digital Access at Home, a program supporting digital access and financial capability for rural communities nationwide.

Americans have become increasingly reliant on broadband for the delivery of essential services like working from home, education and telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In urban areas, 97 percent of Americans have access to high-speed fixed service. In rural areas, that number falls to 65 percent. And on Tribal lands, barely 60 percent have access.

Community Connect seeks to expand the service capacity of rural libraries by offering hotspot lending and financial management seminars including Capital One’s Ready, Set, Bank program, an online tutorial that equips people to manage their finances virtually. 

  • This program aims to enhance opportunities for social mobility by pursuing remote education, economic inclusion, financial management and health.

“Capital One recognizes that digital access has the potential to unlock opportunities for education, entrepreneurship and employment, as well as connection to services that are only accessible online,” says Mariadele Priest, Senior Director of Community Impact & Investment at Capital One. “Community Connect underscores the need for digital access in rural communities, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated preexisting digital inequalities.”

Participating libraries will receive:

The selected libraries represent communities in 14 states across the country, including Bland County Library in the Appalachian region of southwestern Virginia.

“When the pandemic hit, many families here didn’t have a reliable internet connection to work from home,” says Cameron Burton, Director of Library and Community Services at Bland County Library. “Families come to our library every day — some from as far as 30 miles away — to use our internet.”

In addition to providing immediate relief, Burton hopes that access to short-term hotspot access will create a demand for counties to equip residents with adequate broadband access.

“It’s not just water and electricity that is pivotal to our lifestyles anymore,” Burton said. “People in our community have lost their jobs because there wasn’t sufficient broadband access in place to allow them to work from home.” 

Burton expects that this program will in turn equip residents to better manage their finances.

“Partnering with Capital One gives us a unique opportunity to help people in our community manage their money through online banking and work toward securing access to those resources in their own homes,” Burton said.  

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