DeKalb libraries give residents Wi-Fi access with 'Take the Internet Home' program

Thearon Archer holds one of 300 Wi-Fi hotspots available to rent from the DeKalb Public Library. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Residents of DeKalb County who do not have in-home Wi-Fi can access the internet through a program offered by their public library.

This hot ticket item is a game-changer for families without internet.

Thearon Archer provides for his wife and two kids as a truck driver for a sanitation company.

He says his kids like to watch educational programming, but paying for Wi-Fi is not in the budget.

“To have internet is crucial — everyone needs to be somewhat connected,” said Archer.

Thearon Archer uses DeKalb County Public Library hotspot to keep his family connected. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

DeKalb County Public Libraries (DCPL) makes that possible for Archer and his family through its “Take the Internet Home with You” program.

Archer recalls, “When I found out that DeKalb County was issuing out mobile hotspots, I was like, ‘Bet! Babe, we have to jump on this!'”

Launched in 2017, the program allows residents to check out a mobile hotspot for up to 21 days at a time for free — giving families the ability to complete everyday activities like checking email, paying bills and doing homework.

It began with 75 hotspots. Now, the program has 300 available at all DeKalb library branches and officials hope to double that number.

Gresham Library, is one of 23 DeKalb County Public Library branches (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

“Demand is definitely high,” said Michael Strong, principal librarian at the Stonecrest branch, adding, “If one gets checked in right now, we will probably get 3 or 4 phone calls in the hour asking for the hotspot.”

The only issue is funding. The DeKalb Library Foundation pays for the program using grants and donations instead of money from taxpayers.

“To have internet is crucial — everyone needs to be somewhat connected.”

Thearon Archer

According to the DCPL, Wi-Fi hotspots have been checked out more than 2,800 times over the past 12 months.

In a 2022 phone survey of hotspot users, DeKalb Library Foundation found that 60% of the people who checked out wireless hotspots did not have internet service at home.

“If we don’t have internet, we just have to grind it out until one becomes available,” says Archer, as his family has gone up to two months without the ability to secure a library hotspot.

He says the service is essential for his one and four-year-old kids and his wife, who’s taking classes at Georgia Tech.

Thearon Archer holds Verizon Jetpack MiFi hotspot rented from DeKalb Public Library. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Other metro Atlanta counties, including Cobb and Gwinnett, offer similar hotspot programs.

Fulton County used to but had to cancel the program due to lack of funds.

Hotspots are available to cardholders at all 23 DeKalb County Public Library branches.