Putting a $1 million donation from Google to work, the New York Public Library is making 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots available to New Yorkers who have a library card, who will be able to check them out as if they were books. Those without a home broadband connection who are also enrolled in library adult education programs will be able to keep them for six months to a year.
The hotspots come from Sprint, and users will need to sign an agreement before taking them home effectively stating that they won't be used for anything illegal, like piracy. Users are also guaranteed the same privacy protections as if they had personally purchased the hotspots for themselves.
This comes on the heels of the announcement of LinkNYC, an initiative to turn the city's public payphones into free public Wi-Fi hubs, blanketing much of the city in no-cost Internet access. As this solution leaves a number of New Yorkers out of the equation (there are only so many payphones), the library can now easily step in to fill the gaps.
Yet the free Wi-Fi isn't entirely free: LinkNYC is operated by CityBridge LLC, which has a franchise agreement with the city allowing them to sell data collected on Wi-Fi users to advertisers.
A survey of NYPL's scaled-down six-month pilot program showed that 55 percent of the people using in-branch library access did not have broadband access at home. In celebration of the program's official launch, Google is giving 500 Chromebook laptops to young people enrolled in library programs.