For college prep student Maria Garcia, 20, it has been a struggle to complete homework at home. Garcia, who will be attending Hostos College in the fall, said that she has to ask friends to use their Wi-Fi in order to get her work done. But now, that will change as Garcia will be able to borrow a free portable Wi-Fi device from the Mott Haven library close to her home.
A few dozen Bronx residents like Garcia stood on line to receive a Sprint mobile hotspot device by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Thursday morning at the Mott Haven New York Public Library in the Bronx.
The devices were given out to library card-holders to mark the expansion of a pilot program that will provide them with free Internet access. Through the Library Hotspot Program, New Yorkers who don’t have Internet access at home will be able to borrow mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices from one of the 11 library branches participating in the program for up to one year at a time. The program funded with a $1 million donation from Google and grants from the Knight, Open Society and Robin Hood foundations is an attempt to bridge the Internet divide.
“We hope this hotspot lending program will demonstrate that collectively we can bridge that gap for those with the greatest need,” said William Floyd, head of external affairs for Google New York.
The free hotspot device will provide more resources for low-income New Yorkers. Nearly three million New Yorkers don’t have Internet access at home in an age where the Internet has become a part of everyday life. Without Internet access everyday activity like paying bills and helping children with homework is difficult.
“For many of our families there are language barriers that impair their abilities to help their kids with their homework. Having this hotspot available to them at home is a great resource for the kids,” said Ebony Inniss, education coordinator for the Enrichment Zones after school program at Mott Haven library.
The program, which launched last December now provides 2,600 households with free Wi-Fi and will expand to reach 10,000 families in the next year. The program’s expansion will allow any library patron to borrow a Wi-Fi device, as long as they don’t have Internet access at home, are over 18 and have a fine-free library card, making it as easy to get Wi-Fi as it is to check out a library book.
“It will make my life much easier,” said Michael Lattimer, who said that he has three tablets at home because they are more convenient and easier to carry around then laptops. “Wi-Fi is the next best thing and cable is going to be obsolete,” said Lattimer, who said that he had been thinking of investing in a portable hotspot device.