The mayor’s view is that broadband should be treated as “essential public infrastructure” that is managed and maintained for the benefit of all residents.
Baltimore is seeking to eliminate the city’s digital and broadband divide within the next decade by building open-access fibre infrastructure all across the city.
The City reports nearly 100,000 city households face barriers to internet access at home – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following an early commitment to address digital disparity, mayor Brandon Scott has pledged $35m from the City’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation to provide relief to the communities and residents hit hardest by the public health emergency.
The first $6m of the investment will be used to ‘dramatically’ expand public internet access, bringing fibre to the remaining 23 recreation centres not already on the City’s network, and bringing 100 secure wifi hotspots to West Baltimore neighbourhoods.
“Internet access has become a basic necessity of everyday life, but the digital divide prevents many Baltimoreans from taking full advantage of the opportunities that our modern economy offers”
The mayor’s view is that broadband should be treated as “essential public infrastructure” – in the same way as water and roads – that is managed and maintained for the benefit of all residents.
“The Covid-19 pandemic showed us that internet access is critical, basic public infrastructure. From our students to our older adults, Baltimoreans struggled to learn virtually, work from home, and access needed telemedicine on unreliable, slow connections and limited access to broadband,” said Scott.
“We will not wait – today’s $35m investment with American Rescue Plan dollars is about taking an active role and kickstarting our efforts to not just bridge the divide, but close it once and for all, with a strong focus on our residents and neighbourhoods lacking access. This is just the beginning.”
“Internet access has become a basic necessity of everyday life, but the digital divide prevents many Baltimoreans from taking full advantage of the opportunities that our modern economy offers,” added Jason Hardebeck, director of the Mayor’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity.
“Today’s announcement is a down payment on our commitment to invest in an expansion of Baltimore’s digital infrastructure, while ensuring that our most disconnected neighbourhoods are served first and foremost.”
The American Rescue Plan Act provided $641m to the City of Baltimore in response to the Covid-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts. Mayor Brandon Scott established the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Programmes to “transparently and effectively” administer the funding on behalf of the City.