HOUSTON - The last Census found 640,000 Houston households don't have home internet service. So the Harris County Public Library is letting residents without it permanently check-out 40,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and 10,000 Chromebooks.
A Wi-Fi hot spot can provide internet service to a laptop or tablet at home, or wherever you go. It can mean instant access to things like education, jobs, and telemedicine.
Dominique Spurlock is checking out something at the library that will change her family's life.
"Do you have to turn it back in?" she asks the librarian.
"No," the librarian answers. "It’s a lifetime check-out, meaning for the lifetime of the device, it is yours."
It's an Inseego 5G high speed internet hot spot, a big change after having slow speed at home with four sons.
"Once you have more than one device, it kind of glitches out, and it’s kind of frustrating for the kids," said Spurlock.
As a math and science teacher, Spurlock says she's seen students without home internet service feel left in the dark on virtual lessons.
"They’re not able to engage in the lesson, because they feel like they’re left behind," she explained.
"Imagine if you don’t have internet at your house, and you've been laid off, or you're working a job, but you want a new one. That’s a huge barrier in front of you," said Carl Smith, Manager of the Aldine Branch of Harris County Public Library.
Through $30 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Harris County Public Library is providing 40,000 Inseego 5G MiFi® mobile hotspots, powered by T-Mobile, for Harris County residents with no, or only slow speed, home internet service.
"You might be connecting students at home, doing your job at home, or applying for jobs, medical, telehealth," said Glenn Longley, Vice-President of Product Management at Inseego.
"They can put it in their pocket, they can put it in the car, they can plug it in, and wherever you are, you’re connected," Longley added.
The HCPL Connected program is also giving away 10,000 Chromebooks for children who don't already have one.
"It has the Google Docs app, so you can draft a resume, a cover letter," Smith showed us on the Chromebook.
Applicants need a Harris County Library Card, which is free and requires only proof of a Harris County address, to check out a world of opportunity.
"I have a four-year-old and two-year-old, so they have devices. So being portable to go in the car is going to be awesome," said Spurlock.
Applicants can go to any of the 26 branches of the Harris County Public Library or find more information here.
Another opportunity is available for people who live anywhere in the US. The Affordable Connectivity Program is a Federal Communications Commission program, that provides qualifying households a $30 monthly discount on home internet service, plus a one-time $100 discount for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.
To qualify for ACP, households must have income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline, which is $46,060 for a family of three, and receive other government assistance, such as SNAP or Medicaid benefits.