Home News and Features Library Becomes Hub for Internet Use When Comcast is Down

Library Becomes Hub for Internet Use When Comcast is Down

Every room at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library was filled on Monday, Dec. 4, as people flocked to one of the only spots with working internet after wet, heavy snow knocked out Comcast service overnight. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway.
Glance around any room in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library on Monday, Dec. 4, and you would have seen fingers clacking, laptops open, cell phones out. The internet was down seemingly everywhere except the library, and Montpelier needed a place to work. The historic building on Main Street was packed with people out of options after another round of wet, heavy snow hit the region and knocked out the Comcast/Xfinity internet service for most of the day. Even the local cafés had no

When the power goes out (or internet, or both), the library gets flooded with phone calls first thing in the morning, said Carolyn Picazio, Kellogg-Hubbard Library Director. 

People call and ask “Do you have internet? Do you have power?” over and over again, all morning, she said. “… the same thing happened last Monday when we had a heavy, wet snow. We see a tremendous number of people in the library (when the internet is down) and we will probably be packed all day unless services come back on and people head home.”

(Full disclosure: with the internet down at staff homes and at our office on the Vermont College of Fine Arts campus, two of us at The Bridge completed final reporting, editing, and business administration for this issue from a crowded table in the library’s fiction section Monday morning.)

Although several people shushed this reporter while making phone calls for some of the stories you see in this issue, Kellogg-Hubbard is in fact a “talking” library and has been for at least seven years, Picazio said. (In case you didn’t get the memo, there are signs posted around the building that say “Yes, you can talk in the library!”) The nonfiction room is designated as a silent space for people who need quiet, she added.

So why does the library have internet when the rest of the town doesn’t? 

“We have FirstLight fiber and we were part of a pilot program about a decade ago, through the Vermont Department of Libraries to bring more libraries onto fiber service,” Picazio said. Because so many people rely on the library during weather events, Picazio said, “We’re talking about getting a generator particularly as the grid gets older in Vermont. As we’re having more of these extreme weather events, the library is a place where people do come when they don’t have services at home and so we’re talking about … building resiliency so that we can be the place that’s open where people can come and work and keep connected and communicate.”