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Google helps NYC libraries expand hotspot-lending program

Google's $1 million donation means New Yorkers can check out Wi-Fi devices from all three of the city's library systems.

More New Yorkers will soon be able to check out a Wi-Fi device from their library as easily as they can check out a book.

Google made a $1 million donation to New York Public Library to help pay for a program that allows patrons to borrow Wi-Fi devices to use at home for a certain length of time, the city announced Tuesday. The lending program went through a pilot test at the Bronx and Staten Island branches this past summer. Aided by a $500,000 grant from various nonprofit organizations, Google's donation will help the program expand this month to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens libraries as well.

The aim is to provide 10,000 Sprint Wi-Fi hotspots to patrons at all three of New York's library systems. Google will also offer 500 Chromebooks specifically for children and teenagers to use in after-school library programs.

Broadband access can be taken for granted as something that's readily and easily available. But many people across the US either don't have or can't afford such access.

A survey conducted by The New York Public Library found that 55 percent of patrons who come to the library to use the Internet lack broadband access at home. For those with household incomes under $25,000, around 65 percent said they have no such access at home. About 2.5 million New York City residents don't have the Internet at home, typically because of the cost, New York Public Library President Tony Marx told The Wall Street Journal.

Providing US citizens with convenient and quick access to the Internet is also one way to help the country stay more competitive in the global marketplace.

"Far too many New Yorkers do not have regular access to the Internet, and as a result find themselves excluded from a wealth of education, employment, and community resources," Google's Chief Information Officer Ben Fried said in a press release. "This innovative program to loan hotspots to low-income households is a simple, effective way to help those who need broadband and technology the most."

Google also benefits from its own donation since many of the patrons will undoubtedly use the search engine for look for jobs, schools, and other resources.

The New York Public Library system, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, will allow patrons who lack broadband at home and are enrolled in any one of several library programs to borrow devices for six months.

The Brooklyn Public Library will lend patrons the devices for one year if they don't have broadband at home and are enrolled in one of the library's adult education or inclusion programs.

The Queens Library will lend the devices to students in its Adult Learning Program and to patrons with a library card from any one of several Queens branches that also received Google tablets in 2012. The Wi-Fi devices are available for one month, with three renewals possible. First-time borrowers will have to show a photo ID and fill out a borrower's agreement.