SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—The Orange County Public Library system announced on Oct. 9 that it's launching a WiFi on Wheels program to increase internet access across the county.
WiFi on Wheels is part of the county's Internet Access Initiative: Bridging the Digital Divide, a larger project that includes WiFi extensions at county libraries and WiFi hotspots for check out, the library system said in a statement, adding that it's acting "in direct response to the digital divide augmented by the COVID-19 pandemic."
It said that, working in conjunction with OC Information Technology, it will expand access to job searching, online school learning, "and leisure activities in an extraordinary way."
"Internet access, adoption, and training are essential to creating digital equity for Orange County's diverse populations," said First District Supervisor Andrew Do.
"Libraries are the backbone of society and this new service will benefit many residents who currently do not have access to WiFi from their homes, from children needing to do schoolwork to those searching for jobs."
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many essential and social activities online, noted the statement. It added that according to a recent Pew Research Center Study, 53 percent of Americans say the internet has been essential to them during the pandemic.
Concerns over limited internet access are especially prevalent among parents with lower incomes. According to the same study, 43 percent of lower-income parents with children whose schools closed reported their children having to do schoolwork on their cellphones.
Internet access is more important than ever for residents to stay updated on employment opportunities, learn the latest health and public safety information, and maintain community connections, the statement said.
Through WiFi on Wheels, OC Public Libraries will identify and bring internet connectivity to low broadband neighborhoods throughout the county, according to the statement.
Library staff will park a County vehicle with a branded WiFi on Wheels trailer at predesignated locations each week to provide broadband for up to 150 users within a 300-yard radius.
OC Public Libraries outreach staff will be present to answer questions, provide information about library services, and register patrons for library cards.
Children's books and job search books will also be available from the vehicle in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
The WiFi on Wheels pilot program will launch within neighborhoods in Midway City and Westminster, then expand to Stanton, La Habra, La Palma, and San Juan Capistrano in the coming months.
A kick-off event will take place at the Westminster Library at 8180 13th Street on Oct. 20, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Westminster Library is the first branch of OC Public Libraries to extend WiFi beyond library walls and check out wireless hotspots for library cardholders. Families are encouraged to stop by and check out digital library services.
OC Public Libraries' WiFi on Wheels will officially hit the road starting Oct. 27, and be available near the following locations:
—DeMille Elementary, 5400 Van Buren St., Midway City, Oct. 27, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m.
—Fryberger Elementary, 6952 Hood Drive, Westminster, Oct. 28, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m.
—Schmitt Elementary, 7200 Trask Ave., Westminster, Oct. 29, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m.
—Willmore Elementary, 7122 Maple St., Westminster, Oct. 30, 9 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m.
—Sid Goldstein Freedom Park, 14180 All American Way, Westminster, Oct. 31, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.
More information about the WiFi on Wheels program and updates on OC Public Libraries services can be found at ocpl.org.