Beyond Branches: NNPL Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Program
Newport News Public Library, Va.
It is our duty as public servants to find solutions that help to bridge the digital divide and bring internet service to anyone who may not have access. During this time when libraries were closed to the public and all hotspots were checked out, NNPL had to think outside the box to deliver internet directly to residents.
Newport News is the seventh worst-connected city in the country. During the time NNPL was closed to the public, library patrons could not access the internet or use our computers. With numerous layoffs and business closings, and students going to school online, access to high-speed internet was not just a luxury but a necessity for many. NNPL had an opportunity to bring the internet into areas in the community that were impacted most by digital inequity.
NNPL devised a vehicular mobile Wi-Fi program where staff traveled to designated locations and times throughout the city with two Wi-Fi hotspots. We do not have a bookmobile so we used cars. At each location, the two hotspots were available for at least two hours which allowed up to 30 simultaneous connections. Anyone with a mobile device could park at the designated location and connect their device to a Wi-Fi hotspot, within 100 feet of the library vehicle, to gain access to high-speed internet.
Even with our libraries closed, NNPL was successfully able to provide high-speed internet to the community. Patrons could connect to the internet from their cars. Staff observed parked cars with children on devices completing schoolwork as well as adults checking email and applying for jobs. Over 21 hours of service were provided each week over three months to 180 connected devices. We served our community beyond the branches, providing mobile internet access until libraries were able to open up to the public again.