Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Portable wi-fi devices allow rural library patrons to 'borrow the internet'

Sign at the library in Clearwater, Kan.
In an attempt to combat internet dead zones, some rural libraries have begun "circulating cellular-based hotspot devices, similar to a cell phone," that provide internet anywhere cellular service is available, reports the Daily Yonder.

What began as an urban project has been spreading to rural areas, the Yonder reports. In 2015, the New York Public Library (NYPL), the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library system piloted a hotspot lending program for New York residents without broadband at home." NYPL has since "partnered with 24 rural libraries in Kansas and Maine to see how the program might be different in more remote areas. Some libraries in Kansas chose to continue their programs by coming up with their own funding source."

Internet hotspot device
At the Goodland Public Library in northwestern Kansas, the program has been so popular that after funding ended the library "continued the hotspot lending program on its own, funding the $40-a-month cost for each device with help from the library board," reports the Yonder. "Goodland Library negotiated with Verizon and obtained unlimited, unthrottled data services; regular cellular wireless plans often have a monthly cap on data usage. Currently, Goodland has one device it loans out for short term uses and the remaining devices have a loan period of seven days."

Peabody Memorial Library in Jonesport, Maine, has enjoyed success through the program, reports the Yonder. "With 13 devices total and occasional wait lists, the director estimates that 40 to 50 families have taken advantage of the hotspot devices, with at least 20 families consistently relying on one." In Jonesport, where more than 20 percent of the population lives in poverty and 60 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunches, students with school-issued laptops get first choice on the devices.

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