Mississippi county offering hotspot devices for free

February 12, 2022 GMT

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi county is working to bridge the digital divide by making access to the internet more available.

The Laurel-Jones County Library received 2,000 hotspot devices that will be available for checkout to residents beginning next week through the use of their library card. For those who don’t have a card, one can be obtained by providing proof of residency, either by ID, utility bail or a current piece of mail.

The hotspots were purchased through 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% of Jones County residents have online access and the hotspots will benefit families who are under-served with internet access.

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

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“It’s not just children in elementary and high school who need it, we have a lot of college kids that are trying to improve their lives and this is a way for them to be able to connect and pursue their careers,” she added.

A hundred community hotspots were also purchased and will go into county community centers along with participating churches and businesses. The library’s website will provide a list of those locations.

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