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‘Stronger signals’: Library, Alabama Supercomputer partner for stronger Internet

Never before has the need for reliable internet access been more apparent than in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As school, work and the other aspects of daily life have transitioned to the virtual landscape, those without access to the internet have been left in the dark.

During this time when access to the internet is essential, the Selma-Dallas County Public Library and Alabama Supercomputer are taking steps to make sure that the community is connected during this time of crisis.

“Just about the entire world seems to be virtual at this point; education, meetings and even family reunions,” said Library Director Becky Nichols. “There’s never been a more important time for the internet service here at the library to be as strong and efficient as possible.”

According to Nichols, the library is receiving upgrades to its internet via Alabama Supercomputer that will streamline and strengthen the system, better serving the Selma community.

“We’ve been offering internet access throughout the pandemic. We never did close,” said Nichols. “But we began to see that some of our routers were inconsistent and service was not level all the time. So, what we have done is look for a way to strengthen and centralize the service.”

Alabama Supercomputer Engineer Jon Fisher has spent the past couple of weeks ensuring that the library’s system is just that- strengthened and centralized.

“We’re now basically broadcasting one public network, where before there were several different ones with different names,” he said.

Now, patrons will not have to reconnect their devices to a different router when visiting other parts of the library and the signal is strong enough to reach outside of the library, allowing patrons internet access even after hours.

Nichols says the upgrades will guarantee patrons using the library’s computers, their own laptops or even their phones while in the parking lot access to a strong, secure signal.

Alabama Supercomputer CEO Debra Wallace says the organization partners with legislation across the state to provide reliable internet access at discounted “e rates” to schools and public libraries within rural and low-income communities like those in Selma and the rest of the Black Belt. Through partnering with lawmakers across the state, Alabama Supercomputer has provided internet to 575 sites in Alabama.

“The need for reliable internet within these communities has never been more apparent than during this pandemic,” she Wallace.

Nichols echoed Wallace’s statement. Throughout the last year, she has seen first-hand how integral that library is to the community and how important a reliable, secure signal is in addressing patron’s needs.

“I’ve seen that first hand, much more over the last year than ever before, just how important it is to keep a library open and functioning,” she said.