Montana Hot Spot Lending Program

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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 MSL hotspots are provided with unlimited data plans. If your hotspot is experiencing connection problems there might be a problem with the device or there may be a service outage in your area.  Performing a factory reset may resolve connection issues, see further down this FAQ for factory reset instructions. 

If a hotspot has used a large amount of data during a billing period, much greater than the average usage for that area, it may be “de-prioritized” which can cause slower download speeds when the network experiences high traffic. 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. 

The T-Mobile Franklin T-9 hotspots have a 20GB data limit set by default. This limit is set in the configuration settings and can be increased through the web interface for your T-9 hotspots.  Connect to the hotspot with a computer or phone, then navigate to the hotspot management page http://mobile.hotspot/.  Enter your password for the device and login, the default password is “admin” after which you will be prompted to change it. Select the “Settings” tab.  Choose the “Device” menu option, then select “Data Usage”.  There is an entry box where you can set the Usage Limit.  Set this to 500GB, which should be sufficient for each month.  Select “Save Changes”.  If you ever run into an issue with reaching the data limit, simply select a larger data limit.

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.

How long will the State Library’s hot spot program last?

The State Library intends to pay for all hot spot data costs until December 31, 2022. After that date, 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 all monthly data costs associated with the hot spots. 

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

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

What if my library wants to purchase additional hot spots on its own?

If your library would like to purchase hot spots on its own, you may have access to similar pricing plans as the State Library through statewide contracts with the mobile service providers. However, local government agencies must meet certain requirements to participate in these cooperative purchasing agreements. If you would like information about purchasing through these contracts, we recommend that you contact the State Procurement Bureau at You may also send questions to Daniel Rosenberg,

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.

We highly recommend that libraries that have requested hot spots with filtering clearly indicate that to their patrons and keep a careful record of which hot spots have content filtering and which do not. 

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

It is recommended to put overdue devices on suspension as soon as possible to encourage patrons to return them. If a hotspot is overdue, send a suspension request email including an identifying number, such as the device’s IMEI, SIM card number, or the mobile number for that hotspot, to Daniel Rosenberg, When the hotspot has been returned, send a reactivation request email and the data service will be resumed.

The Montana State Library will replace or repair any lost or damaged hotspots. If a hotspot is lost or damaged, send a replacement request email with the ID numbers of the hotspot to Daniel Rosenberg,

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. Please see below for the evaluation survey materials:. 

How do I perform a factory reset on my hotspot?

A common solution to many connectivity and hotspot operational issues is to perform a Factory Reset. This will reset all of the device’s settings to the default values, including admin passwords, Wi-Fi name (SSID), and system settings. There are different methods to perform a factory reset depending on the hotspot model you are using.

  • T-Mobile Franklin T-9
    Remove the back cover. Make sure the battery is installed and your T9 is on. Press down the reset button for 3 seconds and release. Then, your T9 will perform the reset and restart automatically. (For further information, please click here.)
  • T-Mobile Alcatel Linkzone 2
    Press Reset key for 3 seconds to reset device. All LED indicators will flash blue 2 times to indicate that the device has been reset to factory mode. (For further information, please click here.)
  • Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
    The master reset button is in a small hole located on the bottom of the Jetpack, underneath the battery cover. Place one end of an unfolded paper clip into the master reset button hole. Press the reset button with the unfolded paper clip until the display shows "MiFi Powering Off" (about five to six seconds), then your Jetpack will restart. (For further information, please click here.)
Does MSL provide hotspot accessories?

MSL intends to periodically make several types of hotspot accessories available to participating libraries. Accessory orders will be announced during the Hotspot online meet ups and an order form will be added to the hotspot website front page. Replacement USB cables, wall chargers, cases and batteries will be available in limited quantities.  MSL has a limited amount of funding for accessories but will try to fulfill as many requests as possible.