Montana State Library Hot Spot Lending Program

Hot Spot Lending Program LogoMontana State Library Hot Spot Lending Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated the digital divide in Montana, which is why the State Library is investing in a hot spot lending program to help Montana libraries help their patrons in need.  Every public and tribal college library in Montana is eligible to receive hot spots that they can use as they choose to help their communities.

Why hot spots?

Access to the Internet is a universal need but one that goes unmet for far too many Montanans due to lack of available or affordable Internet service.   We can do something about this problem by lending patrons Wi-Fi hot spot devices for use at home or anywhere else with cellular coverage.  Libraries may also use hot spots to serve groups of people by making them available in parks, at museums, in grocery stores, in senior centers, and in other partner organizations.

Example Circulation Policies/Templates for Hot Spot Programs

Evaluation Surveys for the Hot Spot Program

Please print out paper copies of the survey and give them to patrons who participate in the program. Please enter the paper survey responses into the online survey - link listed below. 

Marketing Materials for the Hot Spot Program

How to Catalog the Hot Spots

How to Set-Up and Use the Hot Spots (T-Mobile and Verizon)

Hot Spot Accessories that may be Useful

Spare charging cords for your hot spot devices can be purchased from Amazon as well as

  • Verizon devices will work with a USB Type C charger.
  • T-Mobile devices will work with a Micro USB charging cable (similar to the type used with an Android cell phone).

You may want to consider purchasing cases for your hot spots to prevent wear and tear. Verizon hot spots are pretty durable and don’t necessarily require a case. If you would like cases for T-Mobile devices, T-Mobile recommends these cases available on Amazon.

Suggested Check-In Procedures

For all devices, it is recommended that you tape the battery door shut to prevent a missing battery or SIM card tampering. When the hot spots are checked in, you might want to add "Check for battery" and "check that the correct SIM card is in the device" to your list

Fines and Fees with Hot Spots

The State Library prefers that libraries do not charge overdue fines on the mobile hotspots. We recognize that local policy may mean the library needs to charge an overdue fine equivalent to what is charged for physical materials. For Montana Shared Catalog libraries, fine options are:

  1. No fines
  2. 10 cents per day
  3. $1.00 per day

Suggested Overdue Procedures for Hot Spots

If a patron doesn’t return a hot spot to the library by the due date, we recommend giving them a 3-day grace period to return the device. After that time, you can contact John Kilgour at to deactivate the device, which would render it useless to whomever has it. Once the hot spot device is returned to the library, please contact John Kilgour again to reactivate it. Once it is reactivated, you can then put it back into circulation.

How to Report Issues

T-Mobile Hot Spots:

For general assistance and troubleshooting, the T-Mobile libraries can contact T-Mobile Government Support at 1.844.361.1310. Anyone can call this number--libraries or patrons. If you have more serious issues that can't be resolved, please contact John Kilgour at

Verizon Hot Spots:

For any issues, please contact John Kilgour directly at Please include a description of the issue that you are having. 

Filtering and CIPA Compliance

Unless specified otherwise, T-Mobile hotspots are filtered in order to comply with CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act). According to T-Mobile the categories they block are as follow: 

Anonymizer, Compromised, Criminal Skills / Hacking, Hate Speech, Illegal Drugs, Mature, Nudity, Phishing/Fraud, Porn/Sex, Spam, Spyware/Malicious Sites. Additionally, Safe Search is forced with Google, YouTube, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.

The filter can only be turned on/off. The categories cannot be customized.

CIPA compliance requires a couple of additional steps: 

  • ​An Internet Safety Policy that includes steps taken toward CIPA compliance
  • Public notice and hearing or meeting

An addendum to your existing Internet Policy stating compliance with CIPA for mobile hotspots the discussion of which is on the agenda for a regular board meeting and noted in that meeting's minutes should be sufficient to meet these requirements.

For more information about CIPA, you can visit the E-Rate page on the topic

We recommend that you notify your patrons that the mobile hotspots are filtered when they check them out. Unfortunately, there is no​ quick and easy way to turn off the filtering even for adult users. So, it's best that they be made aware of the potential limitations at the outset.

Also, note that once the initial year's state and federal funding for these devices is complete, your library is free to decide whether or not to continue with filtering or opt for unfiltered access for future use. 

In addition, all Verizon hotspots are unfiltered.​

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hot spot and how does it work?

A hot spot is an area where a user can access the Internet via Wi-Fi. A mobile hot spot device enables users to connect to the Internet using a small box with a cell phone data plan that they can bring with them wherever they go. Like a data plan for a cell phone, as long as the device can connect to the cell tower, users can access the Internet.  The device itself emits a Wi-Fi signal that users can connect their personal devices to, like a laptop, tablet, or smart phone, in order to use the Internet. 

Is there a limit to how much data a patron can use?

The mobile devices come with a pre-paid one-year unlimited data plan. However, with Verizon, there is a possibility that data could be limited if a device exceeds 25GB/month for three consecutive months. This is the official policy: "In the event data usage exceeds 25GB each billing cycle for three (3) consecutive  billing cycles, data throughput speeds will automatically be reduced to 600kbps for data usage exceeding 25GB per billing cycle on a go-forward basis." Verizon has assured MSL that this almost never happens, and if it did, Verizon would first try to find out why there is such high data usage over a given period of time before imposing a data limitation. For the libraries that use Verizon, though, it is a good idea to be aware of this possibility. 

What does a patron need to use a hot spot?

A patron needs to be within range of a cellular tower and needs to have an Internet ready device such as a computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone to use with the hot spot.

Who may borrow hot spots?

Libraries may choose to circulate hot spots to patrons or organizations according to local library policies. 

How do hot spots circulate?

The State Library recommends cataloging hot spots in libraries’ online catalogs so they may circulate like books or other circulating collections.

Hot spots for Montana Shared Catalog member libraries will come pre-cataloged with a 14-day lending period.  The hot spots are holdable and do not renew.

What happens after the one-year contract ends?

After the one-year contract ends, libraries may choose to continue the service or not.  The State Library will transfer the data plan contract to any libraries that wish to continue the service.

Who are the mobile service providers that support this program?

The State Library has partnered with T-Mobile and Verizon to support the program.  Libraries may receive hot spot devices from one or both providers depending on cellular coverage and whether a library chooses to circulate filtered devices.

What does the program cost?

Neither T-Mobile nor Verizon charge for the hot spot devices.  The State Library will pay for the total cost of the one-year data plan. 

T-Mobile’s monthly unlimited data plan cost is $29.75/month.

Verizon’s monthly unlimited data plan cost is $39.99/month.

Do the hot spot services filter internet access?

T-Mobile offers internet filtering that complies with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, as well as unfiltered devices.  Verizon’s hot spot service is unfiltered. If you request a filtered device, it will be T-mobile for sure. If you request an unfiltered device, it could be either Verizon or T-mobile, which is largely dependent upon the providers' levels of service in your area.

What do I do if a patron does not return a hot spot device or if a device is damaged?

Please notify the State Library if a device is lost or damaged.  We will ask the provider to turn off the service to that device and will issue a new device to the library.

What is expected of a library that participates in this program?

Make sure your community is aware of the program.  The State Library has prepared a template press release to announce the service.  Promote the service through your normal marketing channels and on social media.

The devices themselves tend to be very user friendly. However, training staff in the use of the devices tends to aid in a speedier checkout process for your patrons who may also need training.

Checking out the devices, at least to first-time users, may take up more staff time than lending out a book; however, walking patrons through how to turn the device on, recharging the battery, and gaining access to the device’s password are some of the important aspects of use that librarians should share with first-time patrons. It may be helpful to have a handout with this type of information available to patrons.

Because this is a pilot program, the State Library encourages libraries to ask their patrons to complete a simple survey that the State Library has prepared to understand how the devices are used.  Libraries may need to have paper copies of the survey for patrons who cannot or choose not to complete the survey online.