Borrow an “Internet to Go” WiFi Hotspot from the Library

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By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System

As a way to help expand access to broadband Internet in the county, the Darlington County Library System is launching a pilot project called “Internet to Go!” The Library will lend WiFi hotspots at our Darlington and Hartsville locations beginning June 1st. A WiFi hotspot is a device you can use to connect a wireless Internet enabled device, such as a laptop, smartphone, tablet, printer, digital camera, or gaming system to the Internet. The hotspot is portable, so you can connect your device to the Internet almost anywhere there is a cell phone signal, like at home, on a job site, in your church, in a car, or in the park.

Libraries are known for loaning books, DVDs, audio recordings, and in the case of some libraries around the country, projectors, computers, cake pans, fishing gear, tools, sports equipment, night vision goggles, and even ghost detection equipment. Some libraries are loaning WiFi hotspots too! The Library has decided to begin loaning four “Internet to Go” WiFi hotspots for two reasons.

One reason the Library is experimenting with loaning WiFi hotspots is to help bridge the “digital divide.” There are many residents of Darlington County who cannot afford Internet access at home. Ready access to the Internet is no longer a luxury, it has become a necessity. Government agencies are closing local and regional offices in favor of providing their services through a website, leaving those they are to help looking for computer and Internet access to file benefit claims, obtain forms, update records, or just simply to ask a question. Businesses are increasingly requiring applicants to submit job application forms electronically, take online assessment tests, and even interview via Skype. The Library has offered Internet access through our public computers and free in-house WiFi for many years for this reason. The “Internet to Go Program” is another way the Library is helping members of the community bridge that gap!

The second reason for our Internet to Go project is not every place in Darlington County offers Internet access. With a WiFi hotspot, an individual, government agency, business, or other organization can at any time or place set up a small network of computers and devices linked to the Internet to do a variety of things. An agency or organization can set up a temporary link to the world to help members of the community. Recently, the County’s Elections and Registration Office wanted to issue photo IDs at the Hartsville Branch. A secure Internet connection was required for this service. By using one of our hotspots, we were able to provide a secure, password protected Internet connection in less than five minutes without touching our own network.

How can you borrow a WiFi hotspot? First thing you need to know is our WiFi hotspots are available on a first-come/first-served basis. An adult card holder in good standing with the Library can borrow a WiFi hotspot at no charge for three days. Borrowing a hotspot requires a card holder to sign a statement acknowledging having read the rules for WiFi hotspot use and provide a photo ID. Once checked out, it can be renewed three times unless the Library requires it be returned for its use.

The device is easy to use. Switch it on, look for the hotspot’s network name on your device, enter the provided password, and you are connected to the Internet. Select Library staff can show you how to connect. Instructions how to connect to the Internet are provided on the packaging.

There are some restrictions on the use of the WiFi hotspot. Access to a hotspot’s settings is restricted. If the WiFi hotspot does not work properly, it must be returned to the Library for service. The hotspot is set to block access to adult content and malware in an effort to comply with the provisions of the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The Library cannot guarantee all content that may be deemed offensive or harmful will be blocked. Parents/Guardians are advised they are solely responsible for monitoring what their children access on the Internet.

Our WiFi hotspots have no anti-virus or anti-spyware software. The Library cannot guarantee the WiFi hotspot network connection is absolutely secure. The Library is not responsible for any damage to your devices that may result from using a hotspot.

The Library respects your privacy by only maintaining circulation records of which customers have a hotspot currently checked out, deleting it from our records once it is returned. Our service provider will never know who has checked out any of our hotspots. We do not have access to Internet website sites visited by those using the hotspot. The only data collected is the total amount of data transmitted and received by each device during a billing cycle.

Are you wondering what will happen if you keep a WiFi hotspot overdue? First, an overdue hotspot will have its Internet access deactivated within 24 hours after it is due, rendering it useless. Secondly, a $1 per day fine will be levied. Third, a $180 replacement fee will be immediately charged to your Library account. If the hotspot is returned in good condition, with all its parts and packaging intact, the replacement fee will be waived.

The Darlington County Library System is always looking for ways to better serve the community. The goal of the “Internet to Go” project is to provide free Internet access to individuals, agencies, and organizations so that they may improve their lives and the lives of others. If you need the “Internet to Go,” drop by either the Darlington or Hartsville Branches and check out a hotspot!

Author: Jana Pye

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