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Onondaga County expanding take home broadband program

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County libraries will check out a tech pack, including laptop and wifi hotspot

Onondaga County is taking aim at the digital divide with the help of county libraries. $100,000 has been allocated for libraries to buy technology packs that will bring the internet into homes that don’t have it.

Janet Park, executive director of the Onondaga County Library System sees the impact of the digital divide first hand.

“When you come by our library sometimes at night, there will be people sitting in the parking lot, and I’ve had people thinking they’re up to no good. But they want our wireless," said Park.

So she’s thrilled that Onondaga County is paying for at least 176 new technology packs. These backpacks include a laptop and wifi hotspot. There are a handful of them scattered in libraries around the county right now, as part of a pilot program. This expansion will extend it to every library in the county. 

East Syracuse-Minoa School Superintendent Donna DeSiato said among those who will benefit from this are schoolchildren who don’t have internet access at home.

"One, other students and families do have that connectivity, but also, because the very tools we now have at our fingertips, they're not really able to use," said DeSiato. "And so therefore they have to rely on other methods for getting information that do take them longer.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, who came up with the idea after meeting with library officials last year, says it’s just a start in making sure everyone has the ability to be connected to the internet.

"We need to think about long, mid and short term strategies to make our residents successful," said McMahon. "And this is a short term strategy that we will continue to fund if successful."