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Digital access / Internet / Municipal government

City task force calls for better broadband in Baltimore

The “Smarter Baltimore” task force says the city needs better internet infrastructure. Among the recommended steps: getting fiber to city schools. Another report even calls for the creation of a Baltimore Broadband Authority.

Broadband. (Photo by Flickr user Gavin St. Ours, used under a Creative Commons license)

A task force pulled together by city officials released a report Friday that’s designed to serve as a roadmap for improving Baltimore city’s broadband capability, and generally embracing technology as part of the city’s planning process.
The 27-page Smarter City report was developed by a 27-member group. They identified four areas that would improve Baltimore’s technological capabilities: improving infrastructure, economic development, bridging the digital divide and civic engagement.
To “fuel new growth,” the report states, “the city must continue to innovate by taking greater advantage of technology.”

Whether it is a state-of-the-art citywide broadband network, leveraging existing networks and private investment, providing ready access to the Internet in our public schools or easy-to-use online city services, improved technology will play a major role in shaping Baltimore’s future.

To complete these steps, the task force calls on Baltimore to build a “leading-edge digital infrastructure,” with a focus on improving broadband capabilities. The task force cites the Baltimore Broadband Coalition as a grassroots group that is already doing work, and writes that more needs to be done.
In addition to the task force’s report, the city also released a separate study from Magellan Advisors that identifies ways to improve the city’s broadband infrastructure. Magellan calls for the following steps:

  • Upgrade the fiberoptic network to allow high-speed internet access in all Baltimore City Public Schools ($16 million).
  • Develop a “dark fiber” leasing program so broadband providers can lease access to the fast internet service from the city.
  • Use spare underground transportation conduits to expand the city’s broadband network into new areas.
  • Use more towers and rooftops to improve wireless broadband access.
  • Establish a Baltimore Broadband Authority to oversee the city’s broadband network.

The task force’s report states that improving the broadband network will extend access to more residents and help to attract more businesses to the area due to the easy availability of fast Internet. It could even improve government services.
“Looking ahead, using government services should be as easy as on-line transactions such as checking weather reports or handling banking chores,” the report states. “Using government portals to apply and renew for licenses and permits, pay government fees, bid for work and find information should all be easy to accomplish through a broadband network.”
Both reports are currently in draft form. With the release, the city opened a 30-day public comment period. Comments can be submitted to info@smarterbaltimore.org by July 19, 2015.

Companies: City of Baltimore

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