Diversity & Inclusion
Digital access / Resources

Here’s how much it could cost to close Baltimore’s digital divide

John Hopkins gave a rough estimate of the cost to provide free internet service to the 40% of Baltimoreans who live without it.

Calculating equity. Photo By Mike Lawrence

John Hopkins University has released a report that estimates how much it will cost to bring high speed internet access to the 40% of Baltimore residents without it.

Achieving Digital Equity in Baltimore” is a project of the university’s 21st Century Cities Initiative, a research hub on the causes and consequences of urban economic growth. Written by Mary Miller, JHU’s interim SVP for finance and administration and a senior fellow with the 21st Century Cities Initiative, and Mac McComas, senior program manager for the research hub, the report details a plan for bridging the digital divide and provide access to the 96,000 Baltimore households that do not have wireline internet service, such as cable, fiber or another subscriber line.

The report estimates that to service these individual households without internet service at an estimated cost per household per month ranging from $20 to $40, the necessary annual subsidy would range from $23 million to $46 million. It would also cost between $3.5 to $7.5 million to provide devices to households without them, and $21.5 million to provide internet to 200 anchor institutions and 7,000 public housing units.

All together, that’s a cost of $48 million on the low end or $75 million on the high end to provide free internet for those who need it most.

The report often admits these are rough estimates and by no means a definitive cost assessment, but the estimates do illustrate that the cost to provide internet to all is tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions.

Some other recommendations from the report:

  • Increase oversight and advocacy via the creation of an Office of Broadband Authority within city government and the hiring a digital equity director
  • A subsidy for internet providers for providing equity-minded internet service
  • Last-mile service to homes and businesses
  • Continuing community engagement with trusted advisors
  • Set standards for quality of service and measure progress
Read the full report 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.
Companies: Johns Hopkins University

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