New York Public Library offers free wireless mobile hotspots

LaptopNew York City understands the importance of internet access in our current day and age.  Even New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has proposed several measures in recent years to help bring access to those in the city who might not have it yet.  In many cases, city officials have found, cost is still a barrier that keeps some of its residents from getting online via their own broadband subscriptions.

Recently, for example, the mayor’s office proposed 10,000 structures that would provide free wireless internet access within a 150 foot radius.  The devices were to be self-funded through streaming advertisements that would be displayed on users’ devices.

In another move just last month, the city announced that it would be converting some 6,000 pay phone booths (largely unused today) into stationary wireless hotspots where anyone nearby could get online.

Now, libraries are joining the city in its quest for internet access, primarily by offering 10,000 wireless mobile hotspots for patrons to check out.  Library officials have said that their computers and the internet access they provide are among their most popular offerings, but that their computers are almost always full.  This results in long wait times for many library-goers.

The wireless mobile hotspots will allow people to effectively check out internet access in the same way that they would check out a book to read.  The length of time that the units can be held onto will likely vary, and officials have said that one of the factors will be need.  Specifically, the units will be for individuals who are enrolled in higher and adult education and those taking English as a second language courses.  Priority will also be given to those without home broadband internet access.

Over the past six months, the New York Public Library system has tried out a pilot program with about 100 of the units.  Positive feedback prompted further requests for investment and expansion of the program.  Specifically, the new 10,000 unit version is made possible by over $1 million in donations from Google, and about $500,000 from other sources.

Over the first three years of the program, it is estimated to cost around $2.6 million.  The city, would, of course love to be able to provide internet access to everyone in the city, but it’s difficult to pay for the wiring and upkeep of thousands upon thousands of units.

The initiatives by the city and the library programs working together will certainly be a step in the right direction.  For library patrons especially, internet access is getting easier in the Big Apple.  Programs like this are necessary because they help to keep the issue from compounding.  For example, often times more and more job opportunities are posted exclusively online.  Some companies will not even consider using offline applications in their hiring process.  If someone is struggling to get enough money to pay for an internet subscription, they’re at risk of falling further behind by not having the same employment opportunities as those who have access to the web.