Neuse Regional Libraries are committed to removing roadblocks to accessing broadband internet for the residents of Greene, Jones, and Lenoir Counties. So many common, mundane tasks that are critical to performing crucial activities such as pursuing an education, applying for a job, or seeking public assistance have moved online, especially during the current pandemic.
Neuse Regional Libraries were 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. To accomplish this, the Library is working with Eastern Carolina Broadband of Pink Hill, NC to purchase two under-200 feet towers placed in strategic locations in the heart of Jones County to reach formerly inaccessible regions of the County, ensuring that all ten Wi-Fi hotspot location receive fast, unbroken service. Additionally, the State Library of North Carolina, through a federally supported CARES fund, will assist the LIbrary in providing extended wi-fi in the parking lots of all Neuse Regional Library locations by December 30, 2020.
Four hotspots have gone up so far in the parking lots of the Jones County Public Libraries. More hotspots are going up at various community centered locations around Jones County before the end of 2020, and in early 2021 the installation of the towers will lead to some of the hardest places in the county to connect to broadband, including Ten Mile Fork Road and Wyse Fork Road, having access to high quality broadband through drive-in hotspots.
We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to provide increased access to broadband to residents in our service region, and other broadband leaders across the State of North Carolina are taking notice. Recently I had the opportunity to participate in “Bridging the Digital Divide: Library Communities Respond”, a fully digital conference conducted over Zoom where librarians from across the state discussed various topics addressing the Digital Divide or the difference in opportunities available to those with access to broadband and those without.
During this conference, I participated in a panel discussion called “Collaborations, Digital Equity, and the Library” alongside representatives of North Carolina A&T State University, Digital Durham (a collaborative of more than ten organizations dedicated to digital inclusion), and the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office. We discussed how partnerships make projects like ours possible and result in increased opportunity for our residents and library users.
Partnerships are a huge part of our project. Jones County Government and Jones County Public Schools are working with the Library to promote the new service and increase awareness of the availability of the new Wi-Fi hotspots. As we discussed in our conference panel, partnerships play a key role in allowing different types of organizations in the community to put their specialized resources and abilities forward towards a common goal of increased broadband access.
We are extremely pleased that this grant and our new partnerships will enable us to continue providing local residents with new pathways to career advancement, learning opportunities, and personal enrichment. We hope to have many more opportunities to serve our community through partnerships and look forward to continuing to share in conversations on how to best accomplish this with other libraries and digital equity organizations across the state.
The 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). To learn more about Library services, please call 252-527-7066, Ext. 134.