Here's some possibly good news for low-income New Yorkers shafted by the city's uneven free WiFi program—wireless internet will be made available for 10,000 households citywide, thanks in part to a $1M grant from Google.
The initiative is part of the New York Public Library's new program, which would allow library patrons and NYC residents to check out portable wireless internet hubs from their local branches. The Sprint-powered hubs are intended for residents who can't afford their own internet, and primarily will be lent to members involved in certain learning programs and ESL courses, along with city residents who don't have a broadband connection at home. “You can come in to your branch where you're doing those programs. We'll give you a small box that you plug into an electric outlet which creates a hotspot that provides wi-fi at home,” Tony Marx, the NYPL's president, told WNYC.
The NYPL has reportedly offered the hubs to about 100 households since obtaining a $500,000 grant from the Knight Foundation earlier this year. Google's $1M addition will also afford the library 500 chromebook laptops, which will be given out to young people citywide.
In a press release, City Hall confirmed that the program would roll out this month. The Brooklyn Public Library plans to allow patrons to check out the hubs for a year, providing they don't have their own internet at home and are enrolled in an adult education or inclusion program. The devices will also be available at the NYC Connected Communities branches, which serve lower-income residents and seniors.
The NYPL, meanwhile, will allow individuals without their own broadband to keep the hubs for six months, provided they are enrolled in one of the library's programs. And at the Queens Library, the hubs will be doled out to students in adult learning programs, as well as to anyone with a library card from branches designated to distribute Google tablets.
"Whether you’re a parent looking for a job, a child working on a school project, or a family looking for information on services, broadband access is no longer a luxury - it’s a necessity," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “I commend both New York City Libraries and Google for their commitment to increasing accessibility to technology through the innovative Library Hotspot program, and I am thrilled to see thousands of New York City families get access to the internet.”
This exciting news comes on the heels of the less welcome revelation that the city's plan to convert pay phones into WiFi hotspots would provide wealthier neighborhoods with faster internet. That's all thanks, apparently, to advertisers who prefer to funnel ad money into places with, well, more money. On the bright side, free internet is still free internet, even if you have to travel into Manhattan to swipe broadband from the bourgeoisie when everyone else on the block is trying to check their email.