Hotspot Lending Program Status

Purpose

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), has create a public library hotspot lending program to help enable every member of a community to participate fully in digital commerce, employment, and learning. With participating libraries, our shared goal for these programs is to make further progress in our ongoing efforts to close the digital equity gap.

This information will be updated on a regular basis as the public library hotspot lending program solidifies over the coming weeks and months. (Updated 07/16/2021)

Eligibility

The hotspot lending program was open to all 369 Massachusetts public libraries, the Perkins Library, and the Worcester Talking Book Library.  

Project Status

Vendor and Device Information

T-Mobile has been selected as the primary provider for the statewide hotspot effort. 216 libraries will be receiving a total of 3,060 hotspots.  

Libraries will receive Franklin Wireless T9 hotspots. The T9 supports 4G and LTE mobile networks, but not 5G.

  • 108 libraries will receive 5 hotspots
  • 60 libraries will receive 10 hotspots
  • 17 libraries will receive 15 hotspots
  • 20 libraries will receive 20 hotspots
  • 13 libraries will receive more than 20 hotspots

Vendor Alternative

MBLC understands that, though no provider has complete coverage for all of Massachusetts, T-Mobile has made substantial service improvements to previously underserved areas over the last two years, particularly on the Cape and Islands and in western Massachusetts. 

If your library has recent experience (within the last six months) showing that T-Mobile cannot provide an adequate signal to your service area, please contact us to see if there is an alternative solution.

Please bear in mind that we do not yet have details about T-Mobile alternatives. We may ask you to try out a T-Mobile provided hotspot before we make arrangements for alternative service provision.  The process of getting you alternative hotspots may also be delayed until later in the summer.

“Kitting Out”

Hotspots will arrive with the battery and SIM card already installed.  Each hotspot will be labelled with the library, a unique id, and the direct T-Mobile support number for patrons’ use: (844)341-4834.

Each hotspot will already have been assigned a default mobile network name (SSID) and password. 

  • The default SSID will be the library name (possibly shortened).

  • The default Wi-Fi password will be "BorrowWiFi". Some libraries having current hotspot programs have provided their preferred SSID and password. These will be used where possible. There may be some exceptions.

A soft case, suitable for circulation, will be provided with each hotspot. The case will be large enough to contain the device, AC charger and cable.

Calendar

 

July 15   T-Mobile will begin to ship hotspots.  UPS will send ship status emails to each library's program manager.

July 19 - Hotspots are expected to be completely set up in the T-Mobile system, with cellular/line service enabled.  This is an approximate date.

Week of July 26th and August 2nd initial training / webinars

August / September - additional PR materials, social media, and support documentation is made available to participants.

September 30, 2022 – The program formally winds up.

Managing Your Hotspots

Each library will have an account on the T-Mobile portal where the library's inventory of hotspots will already be listed. Library staff will need to establish an email/password login to that account.

MBLC is also providing each library access to a "Mobile Data Management" (MDM) dashboard from Franklin Wireless, the makers of the hotspot. This will allow your staff to remotely control various settings.  Your library account and your hotspots will already be set up within the management dashboard when you receive them.

Libraries will have a contact information, including phone, web and email for the hotspot portal and the management platform.

Circulation and Filtering

We understand that many public libraries do not wish to filter internet content.  Following IMLS guidance, MBLC has set basic rules for when and how filtering is used and can be disabled.

MBLC will require that hotspots be lent only to patrons 17 years and older.  By lending only to adults, libraries will have the flexibility to disable filters upon request.  Libraries are free to set the age limit for lending to 18 if that agrees with other lending policies.

Hotspots will arrive at the library with content filtering turned on by default.  Libraries will be able to disable filtering by contacting T-Mobile via email or phone.  The filtering solution will be Web Titan by TitanHQ.  Beyond content filtering, Web Titan provides a level of cybersecurity -- protecting users against malicious threats such as phising websites.  Libraries will want to provide complete information to users about the pros and cons of disabling filters.  You may want to adapt or extend your current internet acceptable use policies to cover circulating hotspots.  MBLC will provide sample language.

Filtering Management Limitations

At this time libraries will not be able to disable filters through their own management dashboards. They must contact T-Mobile support to disable filtering for a particular hotspot. 

Filtering categories, set broadly for the education market, cannot be tweaked by the library.

Ongoing Program Support

MBLC is acting as the program manager for this project.  Direct support for technical issues will be through the vendor.

If libraries show interest, discussion groups or a specialized mailing list may be established for libraries to share their experiences or best practices.

Adding Hotspots Mid-Program

MBLC should be able to accept requests for additional hotspots if the program is not completely subscribed, though we cannot guarantee this at this time.

Loss and Damage

The MBLC contract has some room for lost or damaged hotspot devices.  If a library needs to replace a hotspot, the vendor will send out a replacement, and the library’s inventory will be adjusted accordingly.  The library will not be liable for the loss or damage.

Marketing / Reaching Underserved Communities

MBLC will provide marketing materials.  Some vendor materials are available in Spanish. MBLC will endeavor to provide selected materials in additional languages.

This program is intended to bridge the connectivity gap to parts of the community that are not connected to the internet.  Though there are not restrictions on lending to any registered patron, libraries will be encouraged to partner with community groups to identify and reach out to populations that may benefit most from internet connectivity.

Program Completion

The program, paid for with IMLS / ARPA funding, will end on September 30, 2022, the end of the federal fiscal year.  Libraries may choose to take over the hotspot data plans for some –or all—of their hotspots at that time.  Libraries may also choose to return their hotspots and cease to offer the lending service.

MBLC anticipates having completely, or largely paid for the hotspot devices as part of our contract.

Reporting

MBLC does not want to make reporting burdensome.  However, as we must report to IMLS on the use of these federal funds, libraries will be asked to provide circulation statistics for the hotspot devices. A customer survey template will be made available, but not required, so that libraries can capture how the loan of a hotspot benefitted the library patron (e.g., school work, job hunting, telehealth).

For More Information

Hotspot Program Questions:
answers@mblc.state.ma.us

Paul Kissman, Library Information Systems Specialist
617-725-1860 x238
(in Massachusetts) 800-952-7403 x238
paul.kissman@mass.gov

Registration, Login, and Support Contacts

T-Mobile (MS Word)

Pintrac MDM (PDF)