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We have been awarded a grant from the Public Library Association and Microsoft to extend the wireless broadband internet ranges around all 30 of our libraries.

The $20,000 grant will pay for equipment to expand the Wi-Fi signal approximately 400 to 600 feet outside the public libraries in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Ferry counties.

“High-speed internet plays a prominent role in our daily lives. Connecting rural communities, so they may have access to remote learning, telehealth, remote work, etc., is more important than ever before as we navigate this pandemic,” said Lisa Karstetter, Microsoft TechSpark Manager in Quincy.

Because the library district does not require a library card to gain access to wifi, there will be no barriers to accessing the technology. Anyone can drive or walk within the range and access the internet while complying with any social distancing guidelines that are in place in their community.

“The stay home order has highlighted the crucial role that internet connectivity plays in all of our daily lives,” said Barbara Walters, Executive Director of NCRL. “Just as the pandemic closed library buildings that were the source of internet service for many people in our communities, the need for internet access grew exponentially. Among those relying on libraries for digital access are people experiencing homelessness and poverty, older adults, and students. They use the library’s broadband and Wi-Fi to apply for jobs, complete school work, connect with health care providers, communicate via email, find information, and conduct business.”

All of the district’s libraries already offer free Wi-Fi inside. Equipment to expand the range of the service will be installed over the next several weeks.

“While recognizing that libraries can’t be the only answer to this problem, we are a key part of the solution,” Walters said. “The lack of broadband access in rural communities is a long-term problem that affects everyone.”

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