I love this story! I saw it posted on WebJunction…
Providence Community Library initially purchased two Mobile Beacon hotspots (at $100 each device plus $120/year for the service). They placed the hotspots into circulation at a library branch that serves a neighborhood with low rates of home broadband service. The hotspots were promoted through their website, newsletter, Facebook page, and posters. The response was immediate. The hotspots are so popular, Providence Community Library is purchasing one additional device for the pilot branch and three devices for an additional branch. They intend to keep records of the success of the offering so as to request grant funds for additional devices.
Providence Community Library has posted the lending guidelines for their hotspots. They do have additional borrowing requirements including a signed user agreement, similar to loaning out a technology device. Providence Community Library can shut down the internet service to the device and they make this fact known.
This is a great idea. Unfortunately right now the service serves mainly urban locations…
Mobile Beacon’s offerings are similar to Mobile Citizen, also a Clear reseller available to non-profit, education and government. Both Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen sell unlimited access for $120/year. They were both created by nonprofit organizations. The service area of both is limited to Clear’s coverage map which is mostly urban.
I know that PCs for People had been working with a similar service, in fact I think it was Clear in the Twin Cities, and they found that many of the recipients of their donated computers were interested and able to sign up for the $120 annual service. While Clear is primarily an urban provider, it sure seems like the kind of project that could be replicated in rural areas using different providers.
For folks who aren’t sure they want to make the investment checking out a connection at the library provides a great trial run, which is important especially as reports continue to indicate that one of the main reasons people don’t go online is that they don’t see the value. No better way to experience the value than have it at home for a week. It might be nice to find a way to pair the connection with a device (laptop, tablet, whatever) too for folks who have nothing at home.