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The Boulder Community Library has received three mobile hot spots through a program with the Montana State Library Commission. 

The hot spots will be used to support the county in completing the 2020 Census, providing internet access, conducting an off-site public program at a park or museum, educational needs, as well as allowing patrons to check out the devices for use at home, according to Library Director Jodi Smiley.

“These hot spots will be extremely useful for those people that do not have internet access at home. We are very grateful to have them, especially during these uncertain times,” said Smiley. 

The Montana State Library Commission allocated the funding for the hot spots as a way to increase internet access throughout the state. All libraries will receive two hot spots and 10 libraries will be selected, based upon need, to receive additional hot spots. Those will be fully funded with a cellular plans part of a pilot program to explore how these devices are used by Montanans to access critical services and support economic development activities. 

This program is the result of data collected over the past year regarding the increasing role that public libraries play in their communities in providing access to the internet, and the lack of access to broadband in so much of Montana. According to BroadbandNow (August 2018), Montana has the worst broadband coverage and the worst average internet speed of all the states in the country. 

Most job applications require at least a portion of the process be done online, and businesses, ranchers and farmers must file reports online as well, so economic prosperity depends upon access. Libraries can help to fill this gap for the neediest and least served Montanans with this program.  According to the 2020 study on The State of Broadband Connectivity and Related IT Infrastructure in Montana’s Public Libraries, one quarter of public libraries in Montana are the sole source of free Internet access in their respective communities.  

During the COVID-19 crisis response, the need for making Internet access mobile in communities has become even more pressing. As library buildings were shuttered across the Treasure State in March and April, those that depend on WiFi at their public library were left without access for their suddenly growing critical needs: distance learning for children, applying for unemployment benefits, seeking telemedicine options, and ordering necessities for home delivery, to name a few.  

For more information about the hot spot program, contact: Boulder Community Library at 225-3241, or check it out on Facebook. 

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