Comcast announced a pair of initiatives designed to address broadband access in Baltimore.
The telecom giant, which is the primary internet provider in Baltimore city, is centering its efforts around helping students gain internet access to explore learning. The idea is to create a “continuum of connectivity” so students have access to the internet at home, at school and in community centers.
In one move, Comcast made a program that provides cheaper internet subscription rates available to any family with student in Baltimore city schools. Known as Internet Essentials, Comcast provides broadband for $9.95 a month, and the option to purchase a computer for “less than $150.” Subscribers also get access to digital literacy training.
In August, Comcast changed the program to make it available to families with student that attend a school where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free school lunch. Since all Baltimore city students are now eligible, all families with students in public schools are eligible for Internet Essentials. Additionally, students that are not in public schools are eligible if they qualify for the National School Lunch Program.
Comcast followed that up with a move this week to provide WiFi hotspots in 16 community centers in the city. With the city and Family League of Baltimore, Comcast formed a “Learning Zone” in the city. Along with WiFi, a group of community organizations received $75,000 in grants for digital literacy programs that can be taught in the community centers. Thirty-five students from Creative City Charter Schools also got free computers and internet access.
The following community centers have free WiFi:
- Baltimore City Foundation — Community Action Partnership Centers
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore — Brooklyn O’Malley and O’Donnell Heights
- CASA de Maryland Baltimore Welcome Center
- Delta Lambda Foundation Outreach Center
- Education Based Latino Outreach
- Liberty Rec and Tech Center
- My Brother’s Keeper
- St. Francis Neighborhood Center
- The 29th Street Community Center
- Towanda Community Center
- Union Baptist-Harvey Johnson Head Start
- Village Learning Place
Comcast’s move comes after a separate federally-backed donation that provided 1,000 laptops to schools and community centers. That effort was under the banner of OneBaltimore, an initiative that was formed after Freddie Gray’s death and the riots that followed to foster public-private partnerships to help the city.
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