ACLS Concludes Checking Out Mobile Hotspot Pilot
After seeing the news that New York and Chicago Public Libraries were going to check out the internet, it reminded me that I saw a spot on TechSoup that offered mobile hotspots for nonprofits and libraries. We share the same challenges that they are trying to solve, lots of our community members are on the wrong side of the digital divide and school homework assignments assume internet access at home.
The attractive side of this offer was that it had a fixed cost for data. For each mobile hotspot, the costs was $10 per month for unlimited 4G service, or $120 per year per device. Mobile Beacon was also willing to donate up to 10 hotspots. If the test was successful, we were looking to purchase additional devices to keep up with anticipated demand.
A representative of Mobile Beacon suggested we test first since only Cumberland and Frostburg are in the “light green areas” on the coverage map which means it may work in some spots but not others.
Connectivity was tested at random location in both Cumberland and Frostburg, by measuring the number of “bars” and download speeds at nearly 75 locations.
In both Cumberland and Frostburg signal strength varied from street to street within the same neighborhood and sometime it varied from house to house. Of the 50 test sites in Cumberland only 11 had sufficient connectivity. In Frostburg, only 1 of 23 sites had sufficient connectivity. We have defined sufficient connectivity as 4 of 5 bars of 4G service and a minimum download speed of 3Mbps.
From a PR perspective we don’t want to check out a product or service that we can’t confidently say works and may well frustrate our patrons.
From a technical standpoint, because we can’t confidently verify connection to the mobile hotspot, we don’t want patrons to accidentally revert to using their own data plans and get billed for data overages.
Given our findings of inconsistent connectivity, we have decided not implement this program. We hope that 4G cell coverage improves in our area soon so that we may implement this initiative.
Cumberland Test Results
Frostburg Test Results