Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott today announced that he will hire Baltimore City’s first Director of Broadband and Digital Equity. This position will serve as Baltimore City’s primary representative for coordination with internal and external stakeholders focused on digital equity and broadband connectivity issues while working to expand public access for Baltimore residents.
More than 60,000 Baltimore City households do not have internet access. Mayor Scott said the City will adopt a comprehensive approach to closing the digital divide and lay out a vision for expanding affordable, high-speed broadband throughout Baltimore City.
“In today’s digital world, equitable access to resources, including broadband internet access and technology, are critical to the success of Baltimoreans in their daily lives,” said Mayor Scott. “With many of our families not having the proper access to technology for remote working, virtual learning, and telehealth, we must continue to be laser-focused on the creation of resources that will help ensure that everyone has access to the 21st-century technology they need to be successful.”
According to a City press release:
Mayor Scott has continued to champion efforts to bridge Baltimore’s digital divide, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor has long supported the creation of a public municipal broadband system, something the Director of Broadband and Digital Equity will be tasked with exploring. This is a cutting-edge approach to ensuring digital equity across Baltimore City. Baltimore will be one of the first cities to have such a position in the Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Scott established hiring a Digital Equity Director as a 100-day priority in his 100 Days of Action Tracker. The establishment of this position was also recommended by the Mayor’s transition team.
Building out broadband access across Maryland is a 2021 MACo Legislative Initiative.
Weaknesses in current broadband internet service occur in every jurisdiction, due to both geography and demography – too many Marylanders have been left on the wrong side of the “digital divide.” The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband connectivity across the state. Students have transitioned to online learning, many professionals have shifted to telework, and applying for unemployment or small business assistance programs often requires access to the internet. Affordable high-speed internet is an essential component of a county’s economic development, while a lack of reliable broadband is a major barrier to socioeconomic opportunity, health, education, and quality of life.
MACo advocates for prioritizing funding to build out broadband access in Maryland, enhancing incentives and orchestrating opportunities for broadband deployment, and leveraging existing resources and infrastructure for broader use.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.