NYC Libraries to Provide Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Rentals Thanks to $1M Google Donation

New York City seems to be on a mission to provide Internet access to everyone. While the LinkNYC program is converting old payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots, it was recently announced that NYC libraries are rolling out a program that will provide free Wi-Fi device rentals after Google donated $1 million to the program and 500 Google Chromebooks. 

Called The Library Hotspot program, it is designed to give families that lack broadband access the chance to borrow free Wi-Fi devices from a local library. With Google’s $1 million donation, in addition to a $500,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge, the program has expanded to all three library systems and is looking to offer around 10,000 families Wi-Fi devices that will be powered by Sprint. 

“Far too many New Yorkers do not have regular access to the Internet, and as a result find themselves excluded from a wealth of education, employment, and community resources,” said Google Chief Information Officer Ben Fried. 

“This innovative program to loan hotspots to low-income households is a simple, effective way to help those who need broadband and technology the most. With this donation of $1 million and Wi-Fi-enabled Chromebooks, Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide.”

New York Public Library
Image Credit: Flikr (Ell Duke)

The program, which expands on a six-month pilot program at the New York Public Library, is expected to launch in December for all three libraries, and will have slightly different approaches as to who is eligible and what they need to do to acquire a Wi-Fi device.

Eligibility and requirements for each library are as follows:

  • In the Brooklyn Public Library, patrons are eligible to borrow devices for one year if they don’t have broadband at home and are enrolled in one of BPL's adult education or inclusion programs, including ESOL, Adult Basic Education, or Citizenship Preparation classes. BPL will also make devices available at their NYC Connected Communities branches, which serve communities most impacted by the digital divide. At those branches, adult library cardholders without broadband at home can register for and attend a program orientation session.
  • In the New York Public Library system, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, people are eligible to borrow devices for six months if they don’t have broadband at home and are currently enrolled in one of several library programs, including after-school programs or adult learning programs, such as ESOL or literacy classes.
  • At Queens Library, the mobile hotspots will be lent to students in its Adult Learning Program, and to anyone with a library card from five libraries also lending Google tablets.
As for the 500 Google Chromebooks, which Google donated, the laptops will be distributed according to the need of children and teens that are enrolled in Library after-school programs.