Accessibility has always been part of public libraries’ DNA, and now, Toronto institutions are taking that principle one step further. Thanks to a new partnership with Google, you’ll be able to check out more than the latest on the New York Times’ bestseller list. You’ll also be able to take home some free Wi-Fi. The Silicon Valley-based tech giant is teaming up with the city to give Canadians temporary (or rather, six-month) access to portable Wi-Fi hot spots. On Wednesday, six branches of the Toronto public library, all of which are located in low-income neighborhoods, began to offer the service.
At a news conference addressing the new program, Mayor John Tory told media members that internet access could be a major factor to helping break the cycle of poverty. “This is one small way of seeing what kind of contribution the library system can make to bridge the digital divide, knowing there is much more that has to be done to truly bridge that divide,” he said.
As per a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, 11 percent of Canadians cannot access the internet at home, and moreover, that 75 percent of citizens are dissatisfied with the price they have to pay for the service.
“Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide,” the tech firm said in a press release of its own.
The program closely resembles similar initiatives in the United States, like those in Chicago and New York City which offer some city residents lendable Wi-Fi on an unlimited data plan. But Toronto’s Wi-Fi hot spots will be capped at 10 gigabytes. “At this point, the wireless providers we spoke to weren’t willing to offer any more (data) to us, but we’re hoping we can advocate for more and continue talks with them,” said Michelle Leung, a library spokesperson.