Organizations ranging from the country’s largest telecom corporations to individual schools and nonprofits were named as recipients of more than $127 million in awards that the State of Maryland disbursed to support broadband access and improvement.
The funds, which Gov. Larry Hogan announced during a Friday press conference in Harford County — which took place at the home of a family that had allegedly benefited from prior state broadband expansion efforts — were distributed as part of Connect Maryland, an initiative of Maryland’s Office of Statewide Broadband that endeavors to bring broadband to every Marylander who wants or needs it.
That problem is especially dire in Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city and the home of an estimated 96,000 households without reliable internet access, but also extends to more rural parts of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore. The full list of awardees, who received funds according to a variety of sub-categories like educational funding and community-based organizational support, thus reflects the full spread of the state’s urban and rural concentrations.
Still, a significant amount of this funding was concentrated within Baltimore city and the surrounding counties. Here are just a few of the entities from those regions that received major awards:
- Comcast received $7,741,401 in a so-called “Network Infrastructure Grant Program” award, which a press release says goes to local jurisdictions “or their Internet Service Provider partners” to build new broadband networks, to grow connectivity in Baltimore County. It also received another grant, worth over $9.6 million, to do similar work in southern Maryland’s Charles County.
- Verizon received a $78,000 “Neighborhood Connect Broadband Grant,” which supports the extension of existing broadband networks to service underserved areas. It is using this money to bring service to Norris Lane in northern Howard County.
- The Digital Harbor Foundation earned 16 “Connected Communities Program” grants, which assist nonprofits and community-based organizations in creating community networks to support low- or moderate-income households. Together, these awards amount to over $3 million in funding.
- St. Elizabeth School, a school for students from first through 12th grade with special needs, earned $64,348 in a “Maryland Emergency Education Relief Grant.” grant. Other local recipients of this grant, which goes to K-12 schools or other educational institutions to “close the gap for students who lack necessary internet access or the devices they need,” include The Hope Academy Baltimore ($156,803), Open Works Inc. ($130,330) and Church of the Immaculate Conception ($462,587).
The Digital Harbor Foundation’s executive director, Andrew Coy, said in a statement that these awards came on the back of long-term advocacy and collaboration with state legislators, entities like Baltimore Tracks and other local stakeholders. However, despite the praise for the “$4.26 million [that] is coming to Baltimore City,” he admitted that he felt more should be coming to the city.
“Baltimore-dedicated funds represent only 3.6% of the total funding allocated by the governor today, and I know that Baltimore has more than 3.6% of the total need and population across the state,” Coy’s Friday statement read. “We can do more.”
Comcast’s Beltway regional Senior Vice President Michael Parker said in a statement that the company is “proud to partner with Charles County, Baltimore County and the State of Maryland to bring our advanced services, including gigabit-speed broadband service, to unserved county residents.”
“Technology is a powerful driver of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth, and we’re committed to helping individuals and communities fully participate in the digital economy,” Parker added.
Hogan said in his Friday remarks that this influx of money, which drew from a $500 million allocation toward broadband access (including $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act disbursements), could help nearly 15,000 achieve better or new broadband access.See the full list of awardees
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