Hotspots available to check out at libraries across Carroll County

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wi-Fi hotspots are now available to check out at the libraries in Berryville, Eureka Springs, and Green Forest. Wi-Fi hotspots are devices you can use to connect a mobile-

enabled device, such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet, to the Internet. The hotspot is portable, so you can connect your device almost wherever you are.

Reliable high-speed internet access is critical to completing many tasks of daily life these days.

From job applications to school assignments to business loan paperwork, institutions are requiring people to go online to access information and tap into opportunities. Recent reports

show that 25 percent of Americans do not have access to broadband — an internet connection fast enough to stream video. Less than half of households living on under $20,000 a year are connected. This has created a digital divide across the country, with those who have computers and high-speed internet at a considerable advantage to those who do not.

In 2019, Arkansas was ranked 48 out of 50 states in terms of connectivity by the Federal Communications Commission. Last May Gov. Asa Hutchinson released his Arkansas State

Broadband Plan with a goal of delivering internet service with download speeds of at least 25 mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 mbps in all Arkansas communities with populations over

500 people by the year 2022. But given the resources this will require, especially in more rural areas, it has been acknowledged this will be a challenge.

“I pay quite a bit to Windstream for home internet service and I am lucky to get a download speed above 2 mbps,” said Berryville Library Director Julie Hall, who lives in rural Carroll County.

Bridging the digital divide and providing people free access to computers, printers and internet service at the libraries has long been a priority for the Carroll and Madison Library System.

“High-speed Internet access, economic development, and quality of life all go together these days,” said Nancy Wood, president of the Carroll County Library Board. “The libraries are

committed to providing the citizens of Carroll County with the information and resources they need to improve and enjoy their lives. In this day and age, hotspots are part of this equation.”

Starting in February, 15 T-Mobile hotspots will be available to borrow – 5 at each of the libraries

in Berryville, Eureka Springs, and Green Forest. You must be over 18 and have a Carroll and Madison Public Library card with less than $10 of fines or fees to check out a hotspot. Hotspots will check out for seven days.

The libraries are able to provide these hotspots as a pilot project this year. A government contract rate available to libraries in Arkansas made the purchase of 15 unlimited data plans possible and, as part of the pilot, the libraries will not replace lost or damaged devices this year. At the end of

the year the cost of equipment and data will be assessed to determine if this is a service the libraries can sustain in a cost-effective manner for the long term.

“High speed data no matter where you live, that’s what we are hoping to provide!” said April Griffith, Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library director.

For information about how you can reserve a hotspot, call your local library.

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