YATES COUNTY – The Southern Tier Library System (STLS) External WiFi Access Project has been live in recent weeks. The 48 public libraries in Allegany, Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties will soon be broadcasting a 100x100Mbps high-speed WiFi internet connection in outdoor public spaces near the physical location of a library.
This project, which is being led by STLS, the region’s public library system, is an extension of existing public broadband. Most STLS member libraries have a 100x100Mbps Internet connection, which is made available free of charge to community members via public computers or indoor WiFi networks. Most libraries also offer some level of outdoor Wi-Fi to assist patrons outside of library hours.
The new systems at the Penn Yan Public Library, Dundee Library and Modeste Bedient Memorial Library in Branchport are already operational.
The external Wi-Fi access project stems from the increased demand for the use of outdoor Wi-Fi during the COVID-19 pandemic. Libraries were forced to close in March 2020 due to the state of emergency. As indoor internet use has stopped, libraries have seen an increase in demand for outdoor Wi-Fi as community members work and study from home, and many rural families do not. didn’t have the broadband connections to support this change.
Libraries reopened in June 2020 and continued to help residents get through the pandemic. Brian Hildreth, Executive Director of STLS, says: “STLS and the public libraries in our region have always been aware of our community’s need for access to computers and the Internet. We were the first facilities to offer public computers and dial-up connections when they became available, and we have continuously evolved to expand our offerings, so that all residents can fully participate in our digital society.
Our libraries empower community members with public computers, loanable laptops and wireless hotspots, print, copy and scan services, online meeting spaces, development resources workforce, learning opportunities and more. This outdoor Wi-Fi project is just another living example of how public libraries promote digital equity and development in times of real community need.
The total cost of the project was $ 224,247, or approximately $ 4,600 per library. Funding has been made available through federal stimulus programs as well as the generous support of the Corning Incorporated Foundation. The foundation provided $ 20,000 to start the project when no support was initially provided. This allowed STLS to lay the groundwork, which expanded the project from five libraries to 48.
“The Corning Incorporated Foundation has been delighted to help STLS meet the connectivity challenges in the Southern Tier,” said Andrea Lynch, President of the Foundation. “Unfortunately, remote activities remain the norm and having both indoor and now extended outdoor Wi-Fi will provide more options for individuals and families who do not have reliable access at home.”
The Corning Incorporated Foundation is a charitable organization established by Corning Incorporated in 1952. Through leadership and collaboration, the Foundation strives to foster vibrant, rewarding and supportive Corning communities. The Foundation focuses on education, social services, culture and volunteering at Corning business locations.
The South East Steuben County Library was one of the first libraries to put outdoor WiFi hotspots into operation. Pauline Emery, Director of the Southeast Steuben County Library, shared her library’s enthusiasm for the program: “The newly installed external and internal WiFi hotspots are such a benefit for community members. . There is a noticeable difference in the strength, speed and range of the library’s WiFi.
Libraries have long championed digital access, and the pandemic has certainly conveyed the need for strong and efficient access. Customers will now enjoy even better connectivity with their smartphones and laptops. This allows for better online learning, better virtual meetings, better job searches, and better virtual connections with friends and family.
Our Board of Trustees, staff and community are grateful to our library system for leading this project, as well as the continued support and dedication of the Corning Incorporated Foundation to foster digital access to our community and the region.
On behalf of the South East Steuben County Library Board, staff and community, I would like to thank the Southern Tier Library System and the Corning Incorporated Foundation for their dedication to improving the digital access to our community and region.