Wi-Fi access in America’s Finest City is about to get a bit easier to obtain with the expansion of a free program San Diego offers.
Mayor Todd Gloria announced Tuesday the expansion of the city’s SD Access 4 All program, which helps residents obtain the technology needed to access Wi-Fi for free. The program works by allowing locals to check out hotspots at libraries.
The expansion will include 900 new mobile hotspots, free Wi-Fi at more than 300 new locations in the city and hundreds of new laptops that can be checked out.
The new Wi-Fi spots include dozens of libraries, Parks and Recreation facilities and various street locations, according to the city. Outdoor community labs with free Wi-Fi have also been created at 10 city libraries. As for the newly purchased laptops, library card holders will be able to check them out for up to two hours.
“We’re excited to offer free Wi-Fi at our libraries, and now we have hundreds of new devices to help our patrons get connected," Misty Jones, the City’s Library Director, said in a statement. “The newest option we have is for San Diegans to check out a mobile hotspot that they can use to get free Wi-Fi at home or wherever they can get a cell signal."
Right now, anyone ages 12 and older who has a valid San Diego library card in good standing can check out a hotspot for up to 30 days. Anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian sign the library’s Wi-Fi Hotspot Kit Use Agreement.
Funding for this endeavor may come from the roughly $7 million the city will save by re-evaluating the San Diego public library schedule to shift needs to focus on increasing technology access. That figure is highlighted in Gloria's proposed budget plan for Fiscal Year 2022.
Having steady access to the Internet has become a necessity during the coronavirus pandemic as more adults began to work from home while students shifted to online learning. The pandemic also highlighted the digital divide by showing that underserved and lower-income communities have a more difficult time securing stable Wi-Fi access.
“This major expansion of free Wi-Fi across our city is about equity and ensuring every San Diegan has a chance to succeed,” Mayor Gloria said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Far too many San Diegans have been held back because they have no internet access. This is a first step toward righting that wrong by providing free Wi-Fi at hundreds of locations as well as providing new tools at libraries – from laptops to mobile hotspots – to help residents get connected.”
For more information on the SD Access 4 All program, click here.