Not so hot spot! Wifi at library’s new technology hub painfully slow

Not so hot spot! Wifi at library’s new technology hub painfully slow
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It would be faster using a card catalogue!

The glitzy new Information Commons at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch has everything a tech-savvy bookworm might want — with the exception of reliable internet connection, that is.

Wifi at the much-hyped $4-million facility is so painfully slow that some library regulars say they must log on elsewhere if they want to get anything done.

“I used to work a lot there before the new space but now I’m working more at home,” said Rafael Martinez, a graphic designer. “I need to upload and download heavy files constantly and it’s very frustrating to not be able to do so at a regular pace.”

The library system, which increasingly uses technology to attract Brooklynites through its bronze and glass doors, opened the digital hub to great fanfare last month, touting a sleek working atmosphere complete with meeting rooms and a 36-seat “wireless learning lab” designed to lure laptop users, freelancers, and job-seekers out of their borough’s well-connected cafes.

But an independent investigation by this newspaper found the wireless service — the lifeline of any freelancer worth his MacBook — feels more like dial-up.

The wireless network at the Information Commons dropped a reporter for this newspaper three times in 15 minutes on a recent weekday, and some websites did not load for minutes. Checking e-mail was impossible, and connection to an outside server was completely out of the question.

A weekday morning test revealed download speed to be 1.97 megabits per second and the upload speed 1.77 megabits per second — a snail’s pace, experts say.

“For most people that is excruciatingly slow,” said Tom Hollingsworth, a wireless engineer who runs the blog the Networking Nerd. “Ten megabits per second is what I consider to be a modern internet connection — that’s the minimum that people want to use in order to stream videos and download pictures.”

Tests done at a nearby 20-something’s apartment revealed download speeds of 18.7 megabits per second and upload speed of 7.34 megabits per second.

Library visitors might even be better off using smartphones to surf the net: Hollingsworth said that phone wireless service on 3G networks typically range between 8 and 15 megabits per second.

Highly connected Brooklynites say they don’t visit the library to feel unplugged.

“It’s kind of a shame to deter people from coming because the internet is so slow,” said Anna Levy, who sends proposals and cover letters from the library a couple of days a week and says that it occasionally goes out in 10 to 15 minute blocks at a time.

And the employees at the help desk said there was nothing they could do.

“It’s just slow,” said a librarian.

But fear not freelancers, help is one the way.

After being contacted by this paper, a library spokeswoman confirmed that the internet was a problem — and that it would soon be getting a much-needed overhaul.

“The number of wireless devices connecting to the Central Library’s wifi has more than doubled over the past year, from 2,023 in Feb. 2012 to 5,377 in Jan. 2013,” the spokeswoman said, promising an improved “Ultra” service from Cablevision was on the way in two to three weeks.

Brooklynites said their disappointment stems from the fact the Information Commons was billed to be the library’s digital future — not just another bank of late-’90s Dells.

“If it was on the second floor, I’d be like, ‘Whatever, it’s the library,’ ” said Levy.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.