Tia Price is leading a coalition formed in response to the pandemic into year two with a new broadband benefit push.
Price is three months in to her position as director of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition (BDEC), and is the organization’s first full-time hire. After serving as director of programs at Wide Angle Youth Media and a brief stint as a teacher with Teach For America, Price became intimately familiar with the effects of the digital divide.
BDEC is a union of 50 different organizations across the city to address digital disparities that leave 40% of Baltimore without internet access and one out of three households without a desktop or laptop computer. Formed as the pandemic created new urgency around closing these gaps, it brings together orgs across a vast swath of sectors, from nonprofits working on tech access, organizations of parents and teachers working to improve education, foundations, school leaders and government.
“I had committed my time to these sixth grade students, but then in November a bunch of different situations came together,” said Price. “My frustrations from being in a classroom that was underresourced, dealing with my mother and her illness, and then thinking about how this coalition could really change things in the future, that’s when I decided this would be a position I’d really like to take on.”
In the near-term, Price and the coalition are gearing up to help Baltimore residents sign up for the $50 home internet credit that will be offered by the federal government through the Emergency Broadband Benefit. She expects the sign up to be on the FCC page in late April. At the BDEC site, those interested can sign up for updates to be notified when registration for the credit will be available.
BDEC is closing in on its one-year anniversary. As new organizations and leaders on this work in both the state and city government arrive, the coalition will need to reflect on how far it has come and where the march for digital equity is going.
“We can no longer operate in silos,” said Price. “The long-term vision of the coalition is we are bringing people together from all of these sectors to have this conversation [about digital equity] and really make change.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-