As the role of public libraries has evolved, they are no longer simply places where you can check out a book. In recent years, they’ve become places where families can check out the World Wide Web.

 Brookfield Public Library has been offering wireless Internet hotspots for patrons to check out for a week at a time. The cost to the library to offer the service is low — just $10 per device per month. 

The library doesn’t pass the cost on to library patrons, and with 25 of the hot spots to lend, it’s a way to make exploring the Internet possible for families who can’t afford home access on a regular basis.

In short, it’s a great service and one that fits perfectly with the library’s role.

But, the hot spot program will be a thing of the past in another week unless there’s some sort of resolution (and we have no reason to believe there will be a resolution so quickly) to a dispute involving wireless provider giant Sprint and a company called Mobile Beacon, which sells the unlimited wireless access to libraries and schools.

Mobile Beacon provides that service through a company called Clearwire, which was purchased by Sprint. Now Sprint wants to abandon Clearwire for its own 4G LTE service.

And Sprint doesn’t appear to be incredibly interested in providing unlimited low-cost broadband service to libraries and schools. They’d prefer to limit the amount of data and dial back the Internet speed once a certain level has been reached.

It’s really a shame for the hundreds of families that check out the hot spots each year in Brookfield. Unless the library can come up with an alternative, its hot spots won’t work after Nov. 6.

Sprint blames Mobile Beacon for not getting with the program, but the new program seems clearly intended to limit unlimited Internet access for those that can’t afford it. And while we doubt our pleas will have much effect on Sprint, all we can do is ask them why they feel the need to do away with a program that has worked so well for so many people.

No one is saying don’t change the platform, just allow libraries to provide the unlimited service. Somehow we think you’ll still manage to survive.