Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pilot program lets Oklahomans check out mobile hotspots from libraries to get internet access

The library in Haskell, Okla., is part of
the pilot program (Best Places map)
A pilot program involving Oklahoma State University and four public libraries is boosting broadband access in rural areas, reports The Oklahoman. The program, which includes libraries in the towns of Elgin, Haskell, Perkins and Seminole, "allows individuals to check out a mobile hotspot device assigned to the libraries, essentially loaning out the internet."

Brian Whitacre, OSU Cooperative Extension agricultural economist and the program's principal investigator, said “These devices use cellular networks the same as smartphones. They can be used inside a home, taken to restaurants, community centers and the like, and even go on a road trip. As long as the cellular network provider used by the hot spot has service in that area, the devices will provide broadband access.”

A 2015 survey found that only 44 percent of Oklahoma households with incomes of less than $25,000 have a broadband connection, compared to 91 percent with incomes greater than $100,000, reports The Oklahoman. Holly Hughes, shared branch manager at the Reiger Memorial Library in Haskell, told The Oklahoman, “Haskell is a small community with limited household incomes. The program will allow the residents of Haskell to have access to the internet in a way they wouldn't be able to simply because of the prices involved.”

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