Loaning Out Internet Access at the Providence Community Library

October, 2013

Libraries offering free Internet access is nothing new. But the Providence Community Library (RI) is taking an innovative leap by allowing patrons to literally check out free home Internet access for a week.

How does Providence do it? They loan out Mobile Beacon hotspot devices.

How The Internet Lending Project Works

Hotspots are clever little low-cost boxes you can carry with you. They fit in a shirt pocket. They’re also easy to use, which contributed to the Providence Community Library’s success. The hotspots have one button. Users turn them on, find the network on their computer, tablet, or phone, then log on using the password on the back of the hotspot device. That’s all it takes to get high speed Internet access.

Check out TechSoup’s Mobile Beacon demo video to see just how easy these devices are to use.

Providence’s hotspots are listed in the catalog and can be requested and checked out like any other library resource, though there are some additional lending guidelines. Patrons must also sign a user agreement when checking out hotspots, similar to the agreements used for circulating laptops. To discourage theft, the library also alerts patrons that Internet access will be turned off if the hotspot isn’t returned.

The  Providence Community Library promoted the availability of hotspots on their website, newsletter, and posters. The devices were a quick hit once people found out what they could do.

The library is planning to get more hotspots to meet demand, and we hear that they’re also adding them to bookmobiles.

A Nonprofit on a Mission

Mobile Beacon is a nonprofit. Their mission is expressly to provide nonprofits, schools, government organizations, and libraries with the same mobile high-speed Internet access as the corporate world.

The TechSoup Mobile Beacon offer provides hotspots to libraries and nonprofits at $15 (or less) per hotspot device, and then $10 per month (prepaid) for unlimited 4G Internet service.

I’ll try and break it down. You can mix and match among three different Mobile Beacon hardware devices:

CLEAR Stick Atlas: A portable USB modem for connecting one computer to Mobile Beacon’s 4G mobile broadband Internet service.

CLEAR Spot 4G (Voyager): This is the hotspot device that Providence Community Library has been loaning out. It’s a portable wireless hotspot for connecting up to eight WiFi-capable devices to Mobile Beacon’s 4G mobile broadband Internet service.

CLEAR Hub Express: This is a bigger WiFi modem/router meant for stationary use. It can wirelessly connect up to 10 WiFi-capable computers, tablets, phones, cameras or printers.

All the devices use prepaid $10 per month ($120 per year) Mobile Beacon unlimited 4G Internet service. Each hardware device needs its own Mobile Beacon service plan. Organizations must confirm that they fall within the Mobile Beacon 4G coverage area before requesting this offer.

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