The library isn’t just loaning out books anymore—starting this December, the New York Public Library will start offering the option to check out personal WiFi hotspots alongside your favorite page-turners. The initiative, reported by The Wall Street Journal, is part of a more widespread public plan to bring wireless internet to the five boroughs, a plan that also includes turning city payphones into stationary municipal hotspots. The city hopes that the addition of personal hotspots to the roster of available public utilities will make WiFi more accessible to low income households in New York City that don’t have home Internet, primarily due to its prohibitive cost. Sprint has provided the hotspot hardware and the program is partially funded by a $1 million donation from Google.
We’re excited to see larger tech companies throw their weight behind the initiative financially, but even more exciting is the acknowledgement that lack of Internet access is a huge problem in low-income communities. Anything from college coursework, to applying to jobs, to building a personal brand requires the internet. In an increasingly digital society, the assumption that internet is available to everyone, all the time, has become the new normal.
"In an increasingly digital society, the assumption that internet is available to everyone, all the time, has become the new normal."
Additionally, this is great news to us here at Karma because it illustrates quite plainly what we believe: that the future of WiFi in general is more mobile and more personal than anyone previously imagined. The plan to install municipal WiFi in phone booths was initially criticized for the same reason that public WiFi hasn’t caught on already—static connections are generally only effective within a small radius and when a limited number of users and devices are connected at a time. While it’s a great idea in theory, it’s clear that there’s a huge need for a personalized connection, and the library model could be a worthwhile solution to expand upon if it's well-executed and popular.
As a NYC-based company, we’re really proud that our city is taking the lead on this issue. We think everyone should be able to access the internet, and we envision a world where individuals have the ability to take their personal internet connection with them. This is a first step toward bringing that vision to everyone, regardless of income bracket.