Dallas public library patrons can now reserve a mobile Wi-Fi device at several of the city’s branch locations, the city announced Thursday.
In an effort to address the lack of internet service some parts of Dallas, city officials will begin a pilot program that offers hundreds of hot spots to check out for up to a month. The devices that allow users to access the internet will be available starting March 2.
Council member Jaime Resendez, whose southeast district includes Pleasant Grove, pushed the city to expand the pilot program to about 900 devices — three times the initial number — during budget discussions last fall. The three-year program will cost the city an estimated $375,000 a year.
Most of the 10 branch locations will provide roughly 100 hot spots. Skyline, Prairie Creek and Pleasant Grove branch libraries will have about 150 split between the three, said Jo Giudice, director of the Dallas Public Library.
Giudice said the library is already working on ways to expand the number of devices with grants and private partnerships. She anticipates a long waiting list.
“I don’t think 900 is enough for a city with 1.2 million,” Giudice said.
Dallas is among a growing number of cities to use taxpayer money to expand internet access. Cities that already offer mobile hot spots include Fort Worth.
Dallas used estimates on the number of households without internet service from the most recent American Communities Survey to decide which library branches would receive the devices. More than 42% of Dallas residents don’t have internet service in their homes, according to the 2016 American Communities Survey.
Resendez on Thursday said internet access is an important part of the city’s infrastructure. Dallas must provide more resources that could help communities in need “reach their full potential,” he added.
“Hopefully it’ll make an impact on the workforce in our city,” Resendez said.
Dallas city officials initially planned 300 hot spots to be evenly distributed among Martin Luther King Jr., Highland Hills and Dallas West branch libraries. Seven other libraries were added after Resendez’s budget amendment in September: Skyline, Pleasant Grove, Prairie Creek, Arcadia Park, Bachman Lake, Paul Laurence Dunbar Lancaster-Kiest, and Polk Wisdom.
Starting Thursday, library patrons can request a hot spot device, like a library book, to check out at a designated location. They cannot renew the item.
“This is very much an issue of equity. So much of daily life depends on internet access,” Giudice said in a statement Thursday. “When you don’t have the ability to get online, it is yet another hurdle to overcome.”
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