Library fixing internet and phone issues

At the end of this week, the Bartholomew County Public Library lost what its director calls one of the most critical services the facility provides.

At about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the library’s internet service began to display intermittent disruptions in service, library Director Jason Hatton said. The facility at 536 Fifth St. would have short periods where the service appeared restored until it went out completely, he said.

“The only time our internet service goes down is when there is a power outage,” Hatton said. “Our service is very consistent. This is very unique for us.”

Unfortunately, when the internet service goes down at the library in downtown Columbus, so do the telephones.

Instead of analog phone lines, the library uses “voice over internet protocol” (VOIP) – a technology utilizing broadband internet to provide both phone calls and video-conferencing. Many organizations have switched to VOIP because it’s substantially less expensive when compared to regular phone service, Hatton said.

The library brought in their own information technology specialists Thursday to see if the problem was on their end, Hatton said. After extensive troubleshooting, the problem was traced to an underlying carrier used by the library’s internet provider, Education Networks of America (ENA), he said.

That left the library staff no choice but to wait Friday until ENA technicians could make their way up from their Nashville, Tennessee headquarters, Hatton said. Library officials were hopeful the services would be restored Friday.

An example of how the library’s internet service has become a critical community asset is reflected in a $46,993 grant received last January through the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, Hatton said.

Those funds were used to purchase 40 Chromebooks and 10 Windows laptops. About 25 laptops had Verizon service built in that made them capable of finding “hot spots,” where people can obtain Internet access via a wireless local-area network. The remaining computers were intended to be borrowed by organizations or teachers to be used in a classroom setting.

But the library computers are perhaps most important to low-income individuals in search for employment or online information as most cannot afford to buy a computer and make monthly home internet payments, Hatton said.