Library to offer mobile WiFi hotspots for checkout

Alachua County residents can check out mobile hotspots from the Alachua County Library District starting Thursday.

The new WiFi2Go pilot program is offering 100 hotspots that patrons can check out for seven days and can connect up to five devices to the internet. The service depends on the availability of a T-Mobile network near where the hotspot is used.

“The Library District created this program to help bridge the digital divide in Alachua County,” said Library District Director Shaney T. Livingston. “We thank the Alachua County Library District Foundation for generously supporting this pilot program to increase internet access.”

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The foundation contributed $36,000 to pay for the WiFi2Go project with funding from an anonymous donor.

While internet access is critical to education, employment, and community connection, many Alachua County residents still lack reliable service, particularly in rural areas.

About 91 percent of urban Alachua County residents have access to three or more broadband providers, but only 70 percent of rural residents do, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Nationwide, minorities, rural residents, seniors, and people with lower levels of income and education are less likely to have broadband service at home, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We know the need for this service is great. We are starting WiFi2Go with 100 devices but hope to expand the program,” Livingston said.

Alachua County library cardholders can reserve hotspots starting April 1 using the online catalog or by calling any branch. Search the catalog for “WiFi2Go” to save a hotspot online. Patrons can check out one hotspot per library card. Student library cardholders cannot check out hotspots.

Patrons can return WiFi2Go hotspots to any library branch. The library will deactivate overdue hotspots after 24 hours and mark them lost after 30 days. Patrons may be charged up to $85 for lost or damaged devices.

In addition to WiFi2Go, the library district offers computers with internet access for free at all 12 locations. Free WiFi is available at all library locations.

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