Council officially OKs new hotspots

Published 10:29 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Austin City Council officially gave an expected final vote of approval to boosting its supply of a hot item at the Austin Public Library.

The council voted 6-0 Monday, with Council member Janet Anderson absent, to spend $27,600 of contingency funds to buy an additional 30 T-Mobile hotspots, which people can check out at the library for short-term internet access.

The library rolled out a program with 55 Wi-Fi hotspots for checkout in January without much fanfare or promotion, but the program has quickly become popular.

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Library Director Ann Hokanson told the council they’ve proved to be a much-used item.

“It’s pretty difficult to get your hands on one. They’re very popular,” she said.

Hotspots provide Wi-Fi internet access via local wireless internet networks, much in the same way cellphones use data.

Generally, the hotspots are used by people who can’t afford internet or don’t want to invest in internet but want to try it out.

Hokanson said the devices can be checked out for up to three weeks.

“Our goal is to give people temporary internet access,” Hokanson said.

Council member Steve King used a hotspot recently on a two-week vacation, and he called the hotspots a great way to avoid using cellular data on a trip, which can often spike costs through roaming.

“What a nice resource for Austin residents to have,” King said.

The vote came as no surprise after unanimous approval at the City Council’s recent July work session, where council members gave Hokanson permission to order the units in July before the final board vote to take advantage of a deal.