Pima County Launches 70 Free Internet Hotspots in the Tucson Area | Local News

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Pima County Public Library has partnered with Cox to activate 70 free hotspots throughout the county, the first of 120 internet hotspots planned to improve connectivity in the region.

The first 70 hotspots were activated on June 27, with another 50 expected to launch by mid-July.

The new hotspots are part of the county’s digital access plan with short-term goals to provide readily available internet service while addressing digital literacy gaps and long-term plans to expand infrastructure broadband throughout the county.

The library hopes the free Wi-Fi service will bridge the digital divide by connecting people to other programs that provide more always-on Internet service at home, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers wide band at a reduced price to low-income households.

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“We’re doing this to help reach people who may not have a connection at home and don’t really know they can come to the library and access the internet,” said Michelle Simon, deputy director of support services. for departmental libraries. “The goal of this effort is not to give people free internet access for the rest of their lives. It is to help them have affordable internet access in their own homes.”

The library is paying for the program, called “Hotspots around Town,” with $720,448 to be reimbursed by the federal government’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, which came from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide grants to schools and libraries for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the contract with Cox on April 5 to fund the hot spot program for three years. The first 70 hotspots already existed for Cox customers to access with their own login credentials. Now anyone can access internet hotspots by connecting to the library’s Wi-Fi called “PCPLonTheGo”.

The next 50 hotspots are for rural gathering centers such as Canoa Preserve Park in Green Valley and Three Points Veterans Memorial Neighborhood Park.

Five locations of the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson will also benefit from internet service, which CEO Denise Watters says will enhance the wide range of programs it offers to young people in addition to serving surrounding communities.

“We love being able to provide the hotspot because our mission is to be in those neighborhoods where the kids need us the most, and the community and families that go with it,” Watters said. “It’s not just the kids at the club, it’s the families and the community around these clubs who need us as well.”

The county’s plan is to complete critical infrastructure projects supported by utilities and public safety agencies to expand broadband access across the county by 10% in each district.

For now, the library is creating a public relations campaign to alert community members to new Wi-Fi services and possibly allow them to receive internet at home.

“(The hotspots) will get people to engage with the library where we can help connect them to resources, the affordable connectivity program, helping them complete those applications so that if they’re eligible for grants , not only are they eligible for grants for internet service, but potentially a device,” Simon said. “This thing is funded for three years, but we’ll find a way to make it sustainable.”

To see a map of available hotspots across the county, visit: bit.ly/3ae8iCt

Contact journalist Nicole Ludden at [email protected]

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