As students continue to rely on their electronic devices to attend classes, clubs and other school-related activities, Student Government (SG) has launched a partnership with T-Mobile to combat technological disparities by providing students with free portable hotspots.
Each of the 20 hotspots were made available for use at the Tampa campus library March 5, and the only item students need to present to obtain one is their USF ID as proof of enrollment. Tampa students can rent the hotspots for free for the rest of the semester, according to Tampa Campus Lieutenant Governor Zach Blair-Andrews. Aside from being a Tampa student, there are no other requirements.
The hotspots will have to be returned to the library May 6, which is also the same day textbook rentals are due.
Each hotspot costs SG $29.50 per month, with all 20 hotspots costing a total of $1,770 over the three months left in the semester, according to Blair-Andrews. Hotspots will only be available this semester, and the next governor and lieutenant governor will determine if they want to repurchase for summer or fall. He said SG only bought 20 because of the “fairly expensive” price.
Due to the limited amount, Blair-Andrews encourages students to hold back on renting them unless they really need them.
“There’s only 20, and obviously we purchased them with Activities and Services fees, so we can’t restrict any students from taking the hotspot,” he said. “So, any students that would like to go get a hotspot can and will receive one, as long as there are some left, but we just ask that each student is mindful of the fact that these are meant to be for the students that really need the internet.”
SG initially decided to partner with T-Mobile for hotspots because of the response of a survey that went out to students in September asking about internet access and electronic device availability. Some students designated that they did not have reliable internet access which prompted SG to pursue an initiative like rentable hotspots.
“The survey results showed some demand for better internet access,” Blair-Andrews said. “We in SG knew we wanted to help some in that regard, so we began the discussions about hotspots and then ultimately we did end up purchasing some from T-Mobile.
“So if you have the internet at your off-campus apartment and it works most of the time, but sometimes it’s a little iffy, I would say wait and see if these hotspots are taken by people that are housing insecure or in a similar situation.”
The hotspots are small and easily portable. Each rental comes with a Hotspot Guide that details how to set them up. Students only need to slide the battery in, turn the hotspot on and then connect their device to the hotspot’s Wi-Fi to use it.
Blair-Andrews said SG ultimately wanted the library to facilitate the rental process because it had previously run a laptop rental for students who needed electronic devices during the rapid emergence of online classes.
“The library employees already have this process in place so we did the purchasing and then we received the hotspots and then handed them off to [the library] and they were kind enough to catalog them and get them ready for distribution,” Blair-Andrews said.
Even with the new hotspots, Blair-Andrews said some students are still at a distinct technological disadvantage. Blair-Andrews said the Student Government Computer Services (SGCS) lab is a resource that students near the Tampa campus should know about because it offers services like computers and printing, laminating and faxing services.
With the semester halfway done, Blair-Andrews hopes that the hotspots will provide students a way to be technologically successful in their academic endeavors.
“There are a handful of students out there that are really suffering from not having reliable internet access, and during the second half of the semester and especially exam week hopefully they can have stable access using these hotspots and finish the semester strong,” Blair-Andrews said.