Orange County Public Library is trying to broaden internet access across the county.
The new Wi-Fi to Go program, announced April 1, allows library card holders to check out a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to three weeks at a time. The hot spots provide high-speed internet access for up to 15 devices.
The hot spots are available at all three branches of the library — the main branch in Hillsborough, the Carrboro branch at McDougle Middle School and the Cybrary located in Carrboro Century Center.
“If you’re a cardholder, all you have to do is show up at one of those three locations,” said Libbie Hough, spokesperson for Orange County Public Library.
Hough said there is a digital divide in Orange County — meaning there is much less internet access available north of I-70. Hough said this divide makes it harder for residents to have broadband access because it is too expensive or might be unavailable where residents live.
“We’re trying to help rural residents with access to broadband,” Hough said.
Jody Smith, Carrboro library branch supervisor, said there are areas in the western part of Carrboro that have difficulties with internet access.
“It could definitely help there, in addition to the northern part of the county,” Smith said.
The hot spots come in a box that looks like a Chinese takeout box. In each box, there is a short survey for users to complete so the library can keep track of why people are interested in the program to inform the library's future decisions.
Three out of the four hot spots at the Carrboro library branch have been checked out, according to Smith.
“People are a little hesitant to check them out because they’re so new, and there are lots of questions,” said Alexa Dunbar, a library assistant at the Carrboro branch.
Hough said the devices were paid for by the Orange County Information Technologies Department.
Hough said she hopes the pilot program goes well so the library can get more hot spots and provide more people with internet access.
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