In the current time of social distancing, remote learning, and the move to online for many events and services, it is more essential than ever that every resident of our region has access to Wi-Fi Internet. Neuse Regional Libraries have an exciting new opportunity to ensure that residents of Jones County can use Wi-Fi services freely and without restriction.
NRL have been awarded $75,000 of federal funding administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the State Library of North Carolina in order to establish ten drive-in Wi-Fi locations throughout Jones County. In order to accomplish this, the Library will purchase two under-200 feet towers placed in strategic locations in the heart of Jones County to reach formerly inaccessible regions of the County. This will ensure that all ten Wi-Fi hotspot location receive fast, unbroken service.
The Library will also be making Chromebook laptops available to the public for checkout. This will help ensure that every Jones County resident has access to a device that can be used with the public Wi-Fi hotpots to complete educational and career-related tasks. By increasing access to wireless internet, the Library will reduce the homework gap facing local students while also providing residents with new opportunities for educational and career growth.
The Library is working with several partners on this project to ensure that it provides the best service possible to the community. Jones County Government and Jones County Public Schools will work with the Library to promote the new service and increase awareness of the availability of the new Wi-Fi hotspots. Eastern Carolina Broadband of Pink Hill will work with the Library on the installation of the new towers and establishment of the Wi-Fi network that will provide wireless Internet at the hot spots, and have played a major role in help plan the project based on their previous work in Jones County.
One of the major goals of this project is to address what the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office has identified as a “homework gap” between students who have access to high speed broadband and those who do not. The Broadband Office states that the homework gap occurs when students are assigned homework requiring access to the Internet but don’t have home access.”
According to a Pew Research Report in March of 2020, students in rural and town areas were 25% less likely to use the Internet to complete homework than those in city and suburban areas. The same report also referenced a 2018 survey in which approximately one-in-five teens said they sometimes cannot complete homework assignments because of a lack of Internet access. The Neuse Regional Libraries hope to counteract this effect by increasing access for students throughout the County who have been issued MacBooks by Jones County Public Schools.
This grant is made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (IMLS grant number LS-246155-OLS-20).
We are extremely pleased that this grant will enable us to continue providing local residents with new pathways to career advancement, learning opportunities, and personal enrichment. To learn more about Library services, please call 252-527-7066, Ext. 134.