Getting online to complete a school assignment, to fill out a job application, or just to surf the Web isn’t easy for the sizable portion of the US population that remains on the wrong side of the digital divide. “It’s not unusual to see people sitting on the library steps, using Wi-Fi that bleeds outside the building,” says Luke Swarthout, director of adult education services for the New York Public Library.

To expand broadband access, an experiment in library lending is under way...

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