Louisville Free Public Library Opens Waiting List for Free Wi-Fi Hotspots – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
A Louisville free public library program that provides free wireless internet hotspots to residents with educational needs during the COVID-19 pandemic may soon run out.
LFPL announced on Wednesday that it now has a waiting list for anyone interested in securing a hot spot. Like the free hotspots Jefferson County Public Schools provided their students during the pandemic, the library program was funded by a federal grant from the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The grant enabled them to purchase 200 hotspots with wireless connectivity late last year.
Paul Burns, director of communications for the Louisville Library, said he received more than 200 hotspot requests. But he said that doesn’t mean they’re gone – yet.
“Sometimes what we see is people apply, but they hit the submit button three or four times,” he said. “We have over 200 applications right now, but they may not all be legitimate applications, which is why we have the waiting list.”
Burns encouraged anyone who still wants to receive a hotspot to access educational materials or programs to go to the new library waiting list page and register.
The library’s hotspot program was introduced in December and is for adult learners or children who cannot access free Internet services through their school district. It’s an extension of the work they’re already doing, providing more than 700 Internet-connected computers in Jefferson County Library branches.
“We have people coming in every day to use them,” Burns said. “Even if you have a phone, you’re not going to apply for a job on your phone, you’re not going to apply for government assistance on your phone.”
Residents who received hotspots are expected to return them by the end of June. Burns said LFPL now owns all 200 hotspots and will seek funding to maintain the program.
A Greater Louisville Project 2020 Report showed that one in 10 households in the city does not have internet access, and around one-third does not have high-speed internet access. The Greater Louisville Project is a nonprofit civic organization that reports data on community issues.
Harrison Kirby, the organization’s data scientist, said high-speed internet access has become more important during the pandemic.
“Being able to jump on Zoom with people, being able to have multiple people at home on the internet at the same time has become increasingly important,” he said. “It’s no longer the case where you just need to be able to check your emails at home, but you also need to be able to make video calls.”
The problem is even more acute in low-income communities in Louisville: Internet access for families living below the poverty line has been declining since 2013.
The Greater Louisville Project also found geographic and racial divides in Internet access. About 63% of black households have internet access, compared to nearly 80% of white households. About 25,600 school-age children in Jefferson County lack high-speed Internet access, mostly in the West End and southwest Louisville.