The City Council explores municipal conduit this week. Here's where it fits in the conversation on broadband access - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Aug. 6, 2018 11:35 am

The City Council explores municipal conduit this week. Here’s where it fits in the conversation on broadband access

The hearing on Wednesday, August 8, is a chance for the tech community to get involved in the conversation on internet access.

Baltimore City Hall.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Adam Bouhmad has been passing out fliers around Fells Point and calling local reporters. There’s a hearing on internet infrastructure at the City Council chamber on Wednesday, August 8, and he thinks it is important for the city’s future.

Like many, the 2016 election led Bouhmad to take a deeper look at problems facing the country. Yet as he looked at large-scale issues, the security engineer found that they played out on the local level.

Bouhmad is well acquainted with the local tech community, being a familiar and helpful presence at events such as the Abilities Hackathon.

In an email with Technical.ly, he said he turned that sense for organizing and connecting toward infrastructure and digital access in the city last year. Amid the wave of activism that followed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai‘s decision to kill net neutrality regulations last year, Bouhmad looked to get the word out about how folks could respond. But it also led him to look at internet access in Baltimore, and a report showing that about one-third of Baltimoreans lack internet access. That in turn led to more research on cities, and to infrastructure – specifically, how cities could take control of the infrastructure. He also called his local elected officials.

As it turns out, it came at a time of renewed attention from local leadesr. In March, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young introduced a trio of resolutions focusing on internet access. On Wednesday, a hearing will explore the physical status of city’s municipal conduit system, which holds wiring that can be used to transmit electricity as well as communications. BGE has previously sought to buy the conduit, but by remaining in public hands it could also have other possibilities.

“The conduit is the city’s gem with regards to municipal broadband implementation,” Bouhmad said. Asked about the tech community’s role in the conversation, he said that municipal broadband could bring “the ability for competition to potentially breed in the form of telecom startups if the city provides fiber lines to not only the consumer, but also to private business. Also, there may be potential for schools, libraries and non-profits to utilize the service at a much cheaper rate than the incumbents.”

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A number of grassroots groups have called for more internet options over the last several years, and Bouhmad realizes there is a lot to be worked out given potential issues with trust, privacy concerns possible overreach. That’s where the hard work begins, and why Bouhmad wants more voices to join the conversation.

The City Council hearing is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 8, in the City Council chambers within City Hall. View more info at the link below.

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