No internet? No problem. The Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library is making the internet more accessible with two new Wi-Fi hotspot devices available for loan.
The program was initiated by Jane Andres, founder of Niagara Workers Welcome, an organization supporting farm workers in town. She said communication for workers, many of whom leave their homes and families for up to eight months, is extremely important. It began as a way to bring internet connection to farm workers who may not have had access otherwise.
“Dealing with a health crisis with a child, spouse or loved one is hard enough when you are together, it's unimaginable when you are so very far away and can't return home to communicate clearly and provide support,” Andres said.
Many workers invest in smart phones to provide that “crucial” connection, but she said internet can be a challenge in rural areas.
“The wireless hotspot has been a lifesaver, literally, for some farms where there has been no ability to connect.”
The library’s IT co-ordinator Matt Furlong said though the service began at Andres’ suggestion, devices will now be available for any cardholders 18 years or older in good standing.
“We knew the migrant workers didn't have access to internet in a lot of situations, so we started in that vein,” he said. “But then we kind of realized a lot of people just in town, depending where you are, might not have access to internet. So, it just became general.”
“In some areas of NOTL they can't even get simple phone service and have to walk over a km to find a spot where they can link up,” Andres said.
Each device was purchased for $200 and costs $600 for internet service annually. The total cost comes from the library’s annual budget, Furlong said.
A Wi-Fi hotspot provides unlimited, no-charge internet access to Wi-Fi enabled devices through the Rogers cellular network. Up to fifteen devices can be connected at one time.
There are no usage fees for cardholders and data is unlimited during the rental period. An overdue fee of $1 per day will be charged for late devices, and library staff will disable them until they have been returned.
Details about how to operate the Wi-Fi hotspot devices can be found on the NOTL Public Library website.