The library's ISP won't provide a means for us to change the Wi-Fi password or provide usage statistics without doing it themselves and charging more than we can afford for the service. We cannot change ISPs. I was thinking about buying a new router and installing it so that I could control these functions. Neither the library nor the county has an IT department or even an IT person. Do you have any recommendations?
Providing free and reliable Wi-Fi for library patrons has become an expected service for public and academic libraries. Most libraries configure their wireless network to be available through an appropriately named SSID, usually the name of the library, and configure the network to present an informational page with any needed terms or conditions that must be acknowledged before enabling users to connect. It is also essential to control whether communications will be encrypted and whether any passwords are needed to connect. Libraries also need to be able to document the use of the service, usually through the number of sessions or bandwidth provided.
Implementing a Wi-Fi network without the ability to configure and control how it is delivered to the public can be quite a problem for a library. The question mentions that the internet service provider (ISP) does not configure the service according to the library's needs or will charge an excessive fee for making these changes. Most business and residential internet service offerings include user-friendly tools for configuration. For the case in question, further discussions with the provider would be needed to learn more about the obstacles to implement the configuration details needed. Are there technical obstacles that prevent the library from implementing its unique configuration settings, or do business policies and pricing prevent making these changes?
It is possible that having the library purchasing its own router would address this issue, depending on the level of control the library has on its network infrastructure. In most cases, the ISP would need to be involved in much more complex configuration issues to activate a customer-provided router compared to making routine configurations to the existing equipment. That said, if the library has general control over its local area network, it could install and configure its own Wi-Fi router without intervention. The library would need to understand some of the details of its network infrastructure and how to securely implement the needed Wi-Fi hotspots or routers. Naturally, the cost of purchasing a new enterprise-quality router or hotspots for the library would need to be compared to the service fee the ISP plans to charge for custom configurations. Although inexpensive residential equipment might be tempting, these devices may not have the features and capacity needed for a high-use public-use library Wi-Fi service.