SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A short-term solution for Missouri is in place until broadband can be increased in the state. Right now, more than 20% of Missouri’s population doesn’t have access to high-speed internet.
Area libraries have over 100 hot spots, a device to simply turn on and access Wi-Fi, available to rent.
“It mainly benefits those who don’t have broadband at home,” said David Patillo, an IT manager for the Springfield-Greene County Library. “This is kind of a stopgap for broadband at home.”
Hot spots prove to be an easy alternative to costly data packages or a lack of broadband altogether if you can get your hands on one.
“We continue to get more and more hotspots, but we continue to still have people on hold for them,” Tysha Shay, branch manager at Republic Library.
A mix of CARES Act funding and several grants adds to the Springfield-Greene County Library’s pool of hot spots available for check out. The program began in 2015 and has been growing ever since, but even the solution brings challenges.
“Currently, we have 171 devices, and I checked this morning, and there were 61 people on hold,” said Shay. “I remember in 2015 when we first debuted and those 40 devices, we had over 500 people on hold, so they’ve always been in high demand.”
Until a more long-term solution can bridge the digital divide, these small black squares will continue to be crucial for families working and studying from home.
“Of course, if you’re living in a rural community and you have to drive long distances to get your groceries or take your kids someplace or go to a medical appointment, the use of a hotspot turned out to be really, really useful,” said Doctor Strover, a communication professor at the University of Texas.
The devices have unlimited data and bandwidth and can be checked out for three weeks at a time.