Students and their families who live in neighborhoods with low internet connectivity across Queens and Brooklyn are getting the chance to surf the web like never before thanks to New York City’s three library systems, Google, Sprint and the Department of Education (DOE).
As part of the next phase of the Library HotSpot program, 46 library branches across the city — run by the Queens Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and New York Public Library — will offer free Wi-Fi hotspots, available for yearlong rentals, to public school students and their families to increase their internet access at home.
All of the branches that will offer the Library HotSpot program are located near DOE Community Schools, which are used as neighborhood hubs where students can receive high-quality academic instruction, families can access social services, and communities come together to share resources and address their common challenges.
“We’re committed to equity and excellence for all New York City students, and this will help create expanded opportunities for students to complete homework, research and thrive outside of school,” said Carmen Fariña, DOE schools chancellor, who announced the partnership on Thursday, Sept. 29. “Partnerships are a cornerstone of Community Schools and I am pleased that all three library systems have joined forces with our schools in support of their students and families. This initiative will be available for all students and families, and we encourage them to take advantage of this resource.”
In order to take part in the program and borrow one of the 5,000 free hotspots — which are powered by Sprint as part of the White House’s ConnectED Initiative — participants must be New York City residents over 18 years of age, report having no internet at home, report having at least one public school student in grades pre-K through 12, have a library card with no fines attached to it, and attend a lending event at one of the 46 participating branches. There is a limit of one hotspot per family, and the hotspots are loaned for one year.
“More than 800,000 households in New York City don’t have a broadband connection to the internet, posing a barrier to opportunity for school-aged children who are already at risk of being left behind,” said Dennis M. Walcott, Queens Library president and CEO. “Our mission is to provide access to lifelong learning, whether it’s through a door to our community libraries, educational programming or the internet.”
While families that qualify for the program can have students in any public school, the program will target students at Community Schools by coordinating outreach with Community School partners, parent coordinators and school leaders. Library staff will hold information sessions and lending events in targeted Community Schools.
“In this day and age, students need access to the internet in order to complete homework and other assignments,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who chairs the Education Committee. “Yet internet access is cost prohibitive for many New York families. These free Wi-Fi hotspots will help ensure that students have the tools they need to excel academically. This is great news for public education.”