Washington County Library Initiative Allows Students to Bring Home Portable Wi-Fi

Cherryfield - High speed wireless internet just became a lot more accessible to students in parts of rural Washington County thanks to this week’s launch of the “Check-out the Internet” project at the Cherryfield Public Library.

The program allows eligible students from Cherryfield and Harrington to borrow a portable Wi-Fi device providing high-speed internet access in places that might not otherwise be served by traditional broadband services.

The goal of the pilot project is to help Washington County students access online resources and continue educational activities at home. To qualify to receive a device, the student must have a school-issued computer or tablet from the Maine Learning Technology Initiative and lack internet access at home.

The library is allowing patrons to check-out the devices out for a month at a time. If devices are available when the month is up, the patron may have the opportunity to renew the device for an additional month.

Later this spring, the program will expand to other communities in Washington County to cover students served by the Peabody Memorial Library in Jonesport, Calais Free Library, Henry D. Moore Library in Steuben, Lubec Memorial Library and the Peavey Memorial Library in Eastport.

Washington County-based Axiom Technologies is providing the equipment and technical support on the portable Wi-Fi devices.

Funding from the program comes from a partnership between the New York Public Library and the Maine State Library allowing Maine to serve as a rural testing ground for a model that launched last year in New York City. Initial investment in the pilot came from the Knight Foundation in an effort to make broadband more accessible to the estimated 27% of New York City households that did not have access to high-speed internet and were generally classified as lower-income.