Some Fort Worth residents lack reliable access to the internet. The Fort Worth Public Library wants to help fix that.
Since July, 80 Wi-Fi hotspots have been available for check out from four library locations in Tarrant County. That wasn’t enough to meet demand for the internet, so Monday the program is expanding to 200 hotspots available at eight libraries.
“Internet access has become a necessity, just like any other utility, but there are pockets in Fort Worth that don’t have it,” said Manya Shorr, library director. “This gives people access to the internet right in their home.”
The program is a response to what Shorr described as “an incredible demand.”
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In September almost 350 library card holders were on a wait list for a hotspot. As of Friday the number was down around 200, still about a 12-week waiting period.
Fort Worth residents who can’t afford internet access at home or those who simply don’t have connections in their neighborhoods rely on public internet, she said.
“”They can’t apply for jobs, they can’t finish their homework,” Shorr said. “What we notice is that people were waiting outside our locations before and after hours, using the internet.
The program initially targeted libraries that serve low-income neighborhoods. Library branches with hotspots for check will include:
▪ Diamond Hill/Jarvis
▪ East Berry
▪ Seminary South
▪ Southwest Regional
Each hotspot can connect to up to 10 devices and relies on the city’s internet. That connection is more secure than other public web connections, Shorr said.
“Pretty much everyone in your family can connect,” she said.
The initial program was funded through the Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library Foundation. Atmos Energy helped fund the expansion of the hotspots. The city’s information technology department also purchased some of the hotspots.
The 200 hotspots likely won’t eliminate the waiting line, but it will put a dent in how long people wait. Hotspots can be checked out for three weeks and come with a charger and instructions.
A $1.00 fine will be charged every day past the due date to a maximum fine of $15.
Shorr said the library is open to expanding the number of hotspots, which is funded through 2019.
“If someone in the community wants to step up and help fund more, we’ll do it,” she said.