Boston Public Library Takes Aim at the Digital Divide with New Pilot

The library system will begin offering access to 200 unlimited Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge.

by Jordan Graham, Boston Herald / October 3, 2018

(TNS) — A new pilot program will allow Boston residents to borrow Wi-Fi hot spots from the Boston Public Library, part of the city’s continuing efforts to increase Internet access.

“The library has taken ownership of the challenge for many in our society for gaining access to the Internet,” said David Leonard, president of the Boston Public Library. “You can’t really participate in civic life in any way if you can’t get access to the Internet.”

Beginning yesterday, the BPL will lend its 200 T-Mobile hot spots, free of charge, for 21 days with unlimited data, Leonard said. The move is a natural extension of the library’s Internet and computer resources that have long been available inside its branches.

“People have been coming to libraries to log onto a desktop, getting on the web,” Leonard said. “This is another way of us being in the community and now you can do this from home.”

The one-year pilot program is funded by a $100,000 grant from Verizon, which committed to the funding when it announced its Boston-wide rollout of fiber-optic Internet service.

The BPL said it would not monitor traffic on the devices, but said users agree to not use it for illegal purposes when they are checked out.

“Libraries have a long tradition of not getting involved with censorship,” Leonard said. “Our business is to get people connected to the resources they need, our patrons in this category are adults, and if they use these as intended it will better their lives.”

In recent years, Boston has rolled out free Wi-Fi across the city, and earlier this year, announced a pilot program with Internet provider Starry to provide free Wi-Fi to public housing residents.

©2018 the Boston Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.