By Jessica Mathews /

A new partnership with aims to expand Internet access by offering hot spot devices for check out at area libraries.

The Huron-Clinton Metroparks have teamed up with The Library Network and the Suburban Library Cooperative to help provide equitable access to wi-fi hotspot service for students in southeast Michigan. Officials say in the best of times, inequitable access to the internet is a major problem in the region, which the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on as schools shut down and moved to remote learning. It’s been difficult for many to provide the necessary data service and the bandwidth needed for virtual learning.

A press release states that libraries serve as a community staple for people to have access to computers and the Internet; however, they were required to close during the pandemic, meaning residents could no longer come into the library and utilize their internet access. Some libraries still are not open but are continuing to provide curbside or grab-and-go pick-up service while also shifting to more online programming.

With the one-year pilot partnership, the Metroparks are providing 100 hot spots in the five-county service region to be checked out through the library partners for use in underserved areas. The libraries where these devices are available for check-out were selected to focus on underserved areas where hotspot usage would make the greatest impact on the surrounding community. The hotspots will provide unlimited high-speed internet to users by using broadband connectivity with T-Mobile data services. The Fowlerville District Library is among those participating.

Metroparks Director Amy McMillan says working collectively, they can provide more internet access to families in the region and improve the connection to virtual education and resources. In doing so, she says that also expands access to the digital resources and virtual programs the Metroparks are sharing to keep residents connected and engaged with the outdoors.

More information is included in the attached press release.