- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - A downtown South Bend public housing complex now has free Internet access thanks to federal funding and the work of the city’s public library.

The South Bend Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/29bKREw ) the St. Joseph County Public Library recently started providing free Wi-Fi service to residents of the Monroe Circle neighborhood.

The service is not as robust as an individual connection. But it gives those who can’t afford it access to the internet for school, work, paying bills and entertainment.

The library paid for the project with a $10,000 federal Library Services & Technology Act grant and about $14,138 in library funds.

An official overseeing the library’s IT department says access to the internet is no longer optional in an increasingly technology driven world.

The goal is to bridge a growing digital divide and provide low-income families the same access to online educational, business and recreational resources as more affluent community residents, said Sarah Hill, coordinator of the library’s information technology efforts.

In 2013, roughly a third of U.S. households with incomes of less than $30,000 year and teens living at home didn’t have broadband access at home, according to the Pew Research Center.

The library plans to host a workshop at the South Bend Housing Authority office to teach Monroe Circle residents more about the Wi-Fi service and how to access it.

The library is providing the public housing residents the means to apply for jobs, do their taxes, find health care information and access their children’s school records without having to go to the library during regular business hours or rely on fast-food restaurants with free Wi-Fi to accomplish daily tasks.

“The Internet is no longer optional,” Hill said. “We think this is going to make a huge difference in their lives.”



Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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