Wireless Internet Now Available At Rim Country Libraries

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Patrons of local libraries can now bring their own laptops and surf the Internet, free of charge.

The Gila County Library District has rolled out wireless Internet service to seven of its nine library affiliates across the county. Young and Hayden should have Internet access by the end of the summer, if not sooner.

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Cheryl Kuhl takes advantage of wireless access at the Payson Public Library. The public libraries in Tonto Basin and Pine also have wireless Internet.

"We have public access stations at all our libraries, but our librarians felt that, in what they deal with day to day, more patrons want online than there are computers," said Jacque Griffin, director of library district.

Library space is finite, so wireless was an obvious solution to the question of how to add service.

Installation of the wireless router took place at the Tonto Basin Library two months ago.

"For a year, we had questions about when wireless Internet was coming. So, of course, we were very excited to get it," said Tonto Basin Library manager Fran Cain.

"The library serves winter visitors, students and business people."

Adding wireless access meant more bandwidth would be necessary.

Internet users are asked to restrain from watching streaming video, such as the clips on YouTube, because it "clogs and slows the system, then real library work can't happen," Griffin said.

Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library in Pine had a few glitches when they rolled out the new service, but all seems to be well now, according to director Becky Waer.

Users in Pine need to sign the library's Internet policy. Minors can go online only if a parental permission slip is on file.

The next order of business, from the county standpoint, was to make certain filters for junk mail and inappropriate sites were in place.

The use of filters compliant with the Children's Internet Protection Act means libraries receive discounts offered by the federal E-Rate program.

The E-Rate program is the surcharge on phone bills that helps reimburse schools and libraries for telecommunications services.

The black-and-blue router boxes cost about $100 per library, not including installation.

Gila County's ability to offer the wireless program was made possible, in part, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Paying for Internet service is not cost-effective for part-time residents, but reliable public wireless access lets them keep in touch with friends, family and business contacts.

"I've had problems getting online in other places, but using the system here is wonderful," said Cheryl Kuhl, from a padded chair near the sunny windows of the Payson Public Library.

Wireless access is also available for organizations using the public meeting room.

Payson library patrons who wish to use wireless access must sign the computer use policy and check in at the reference desk, said assistant director, Margaret Jesus.

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