PLYMC Awarded More than $170,000 in Federal Broadband Funds

YOUNGSTOWN – The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (PLYMC) recently received $171,122 from the Electronic Connectivity Fund (ECF) to buy new mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, iPads, and necessary data plans for patrons to use at home for free. With the funds, the Library bought 50 new mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, 150 iPads, and the funds will also be used to reimburse the Library for its existing 144 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots as well as pay for the data plans for the devices. The ECF is a $7.17 billion program funded through the FCC to help libraries and schools close the digital divide by providing their communities with free technology and broadband connectivity.  

“There’s an incredible need for Internet access and devices in our communities right now, and the Library is stepping up to fill the gap,” said Aimee Fifarek, Executive Director and CEO of the Library. “This grant will help our patrons get online from the comfort of their own home for school, work, paying bills, connecting with family and friends, and of course, just for fun.”  

In 2016, the Library launched its free Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Rental Program for patrons to borrow a hotspot and use it at home. Since the program’s launch, patrons have regularly experienced a waitlist for the devices. The new equipment aims to end the waitlist. The Library does not collect personal information or data from patrons while using Library devices. For more information on the Library’s Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Rental Program, please visit https://www.libraryvisit.org/hotspots/.   

For eligible libraries and schools, the ECF Program covers the costs of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity purchases for at-home use by library patrons, students, and school staff. Congress authorized the ECF as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. For more information on the ECF Program, please visit https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund.   

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The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (PLYMC) has served the Mahoning Valley since 1880, when the Youngstown Library Association was officially created. With 15 branches across Mahoning County, including our Main Library in downtown Youngstown, the PLYMC is well known for signature services and programs like Summer Discovery and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. The mission and values of PLYMC to “connect, inspire, and enrich” position the Library to serve our communities by preparing children for kindergarten, promoting early literacy, helping job seekers, connecting Valley residents to technology, and providing resources for small businesses.