The Knight News Challenge seeks to ensure an Internet that fuels innovation through the creation and sharing of ideas .
The New York Public Library’s project, “Check out the Internet,” addresses the most foundational assumption of this goal: that everyone has easy access to quality, high-speed internet, regardless of economic circumstance or geographic location.
NYPL, and libraries in general, have always been in the business of ensuring access, so that anyone, even those who cannot afford books and other resources, can learn from, enjoy, and ultimately contribute to a global body of information.
Americans who cannot afford quality Internet at home are caught on the wrong side of a growing digital divide. They are unable to learn from, enjoy, and contribute to the global body of information in a digital world.
In New York City, where the Internet is easily available but where an estimated 1.7 million residents fall below the federal poverty line, our surveys have shown that expense is the most often-cited reason for not subscribing to available Internet.
27% of NYC households do not have access to broadband. This figure is tilted heavily to those in low- and lower-income households: 46% of those earning less than $35,000 per year do not have access.
Without access at home, one is effectively shut out of America’s $8 trillion dollar digital economy and we are miss out on their potential contributions.
Last year, NYPL provided a significant bridge to this divide, hosting over 3.1 million computing sessions and 2.8 million Wi-Fi sessions and providing patrons with access to over 1,500 laptops, which were borrowed for on-site use more than 400,000 times.
Starting this fall, with seed funding from the Knight News Challenge and $1.5 million remaining that we hope to raise, we will increase the overall population who can have the benefit of the open Internet, through an innovative pilot initiative to provide mobile Internet access.
Specifically, we will lend portable 4G LTE MiFi devices, which use cellular networks to create a personal broadband Internet hotspot, allowing people to check out the Internet for use at home the same way they check out books and other materials.
We will now be able to provide 24/7 quality Internet access, expanding from our current limits: one 40-minute time slot per day, per patron, at one of NYPL’s physical facilities during operating hours.
By initially lending these devices to participants in our education programs: Out of School Time, English for Speakers of Other Languages, and Technology Training programs, NYPL will bridge a major gap in the availability of the Internet for a critical segment of the population, which has the most to gain from its use.
In short, this effort will connect wired users who live in disconnected households, fostering an expanded community for reading, learning, and creativity.
Longer term, we intend to develop a model that can be adopted by libraries and communities across the nation.
More broadly, we all will benefit: by bringing high-speed Internet access into lower-income households, a greater number of diverse voices will explore, experiment with, and contribute to the web, ensuring that Internet is not restricted to the needs and perspectives of a more affluent society.
Check Out the Internet from NYPL
Check Out the Internet
All incomes Below $35K
NYC broadband adoption lags the nation and
disproportionately affects low-income households.
NYC Households without Broadband Access
Libraries are the City’s only free providers of critical Internet
access, and with additional resources, are positioned to do
more for those who need it most.
Number of NYPL locations that offer
high-speed fiber WiFi connections
Percent of NYPL locations in low-
Out of School Time (OST) 8.0K
NYPL Educational Programing: Potential Students
English Speaking of
Other Languages (ESOL)
Using existing competencies in lending though our branch
network NYPL will loan 4G enabled wireless to under-
resourced families who already participating in learning
programs at the Library.