Later this month, New York City residents will be able to borrow portable wireless Internet hubs from their local library along with their books. This is part of the program to bring the Internet to the district and is set to offer around 10,000 units through the New York Public Library, Queens Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, which is partially funded from a $1 million Google donation. The project is being overseen by the New York Public Library’s president, Anthony Marx, a proponent for the digitization of the library services. Under his stewardship, the library has materially increased the number of eBooks offered but it’s clear that this is not enough. He said, “At every branch you walk into, every computer is being used all the time. As more and more of what the library offers moves online, it became obvious that there was a problem.”
This program is designed to help city residents without the Internet at home, estimated to be around 2.5 million. There will be various eligibility requirements put into place before residents can take out a unit and the amount of time that it can be kept will vary, too, but the idea is that the Sprint-powered WiFi hubs will (generally) be lent to library members enrolled in adult learning programs, English language courses and residents without home broadband. Google’s head of external affairs for New York, William Floyd, said: “There are only a few ways you can do this, save running fiber down the middle of the street, through the trees, and into apartment buildings. The things we like about the public library program are the simplicity and the reach.” Certainly, WiFi is a ubiquitous technology that’s easy to deploy and maintain with minimal requirements.
It’s no surprise that Google are involved with this project as it’s one of their stated aims to bring the Internet to as much of the population as they can. It’s great to see this statement backed up by cold, hard cash and the money being put to good use. The library scheme joins others in and around New York City, including one announced in November by New York Maybe Bill de Blasio, by incorporating around 10,000 Link structures that will offer free WiFi and ‘phone calls within a 150-foot radius and funded through built-in streaming adverts. There is another plan to convert around 6,000 of the city’s payphone kiosks into stationary WiFi hotspots.