Mississippi county offering hotspot devices for free

A county in Mississippi is working to close the digital divide by making internet access more available.

The Laurel-Jones County Library received 2,000 hotspot devices that will be available at checkout for residents starting next week through the use of their library card. For those who do not have a card, it is possible to obtain one by providing proof of residence, either through an ID, utility deposit or current courier.

The hotspots were purchased with a $1 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act‘s Emergency Connectivity Fund program, WDAM-TV reported.

Library Director Karyn Walsh said only 68 percent of Jones County residents have online access and the hotspots will benefit families that are underserved with internet access.

“We have computers in the library, but it’s difficult for people in outlying areas to access a computer to connect, especially for education,” Walsh said.

“It’s not just primary and secondary kids who need it, we have a lot of students trying to improve their lives and it’s a way for them to connect and further their careers,” said she added.

About 100 community access points have also been purchased and will go to community centers across the county with participating churches and businesses. The library website will provide a list of these locations.

T-Mobile is sponsoring the program by offering free airtime at mobile hotspots through the end of June. Additional funding and/or sponsorship is being sought to sustain the program for another year.

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