Civic News
Internet / Municipal government

Baltimore City Council President wants to explore municipal broadband

A trio of resolutions set to be introduced by City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young call for the Council to look into a public-owned broadband network, and the rollback of net neutrality regulations.

The scene at City Council's broadband hearing in 2016. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young is looking to put net neutrality and municipal broadband on the agenda at City Hall.
On Monday, Young is expected to introduce a trio of resolutions surrounding internet-related issues. Each is aimed at ensuring internet access.
One of the measures calls for a study into the viability of a publicly-owned broadband network in Baltimore. Specifically, the study calls for the Department of Information and Technology, Department of Finance and Department of Transportation to explore a citywide program.
“Such a program could ensure high-speed Internet access to citizens at an affordable price,” Young’s office states. “San Francisco recently completed a successful municipal broadband study that explored various public-private financing options.”
Grassroots groups have long called for broadband alternatives in the city. Talk of creating more alternatives to Comcast was a topic in the Council chambers following the work of a task force under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration. Closer to home than San Francisco, we’ve seen towns like Westminster, Md., introduce its own municipal broadband program. Broadband is also a key point in a strategic tech plan that is currently being finalized by the city’s IT office, CIO Frank Johnson told us recently.
Infrastructure-wise, the city has a 54-mile fiber ring. As part of Monday’s package, Young also wants to get an update on the status of the city’s conduit system, which holds wiring for electricity as well as phone and fiberoptics. The city passed on an offer to sell the network to BGE in 2015, and it’s been linked as a key to potential broadband efforts in the past.
With a third resolution, Young is also calling to hold a hearing looking into how the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to repeal net neutrality regulations will affect the city. The public hearing would include representatives of city agencies testifying. Obama administration officials who had a hand in passing the regulations have tied net neutrality to ensuring open access to the internet. The repeal push launched under the Trump administration was finalized in the Federal Register last month.
Young said a municipal broadband program could help ensure internet access even without rules barring internet providers from blocking or charging for access to specific speeds and content in place.
“Providing citizens with access to reliable and affordable Internet connectivity is important as more people use technology to gain entry to fast-growing employment sectors and gain valuable education and technological skills,” Young said in a statement. “A repeal of net neutrality would result in real, tangible losses.”
Resolution numbers and hearing dates weren’t provided ahead of Monday’s meeting, where the measures will be introduced, but we’ll have updates when they become available.


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