By Adam Andzejewski
We gave oversight to the federal digital divide dollars flowing into the City of Baltimore. The latest round of American Rescue Plan Act funds was doled out by the mayor this week and included $4.4 million to advance "digital equity.'
- Your organization at OpenTheBooks.com has been giving oversight to the roughly $35 million in federal funding meant to cure the "digital divide" in Baltimore and subsidize high-speed internet access. What is the digital divide and what did you find out for Baltimore?
Describe 'digital divide:. Where everyone has internet connectivity through a wire or your cable company. Today, an est. 100,000 locations in the city don't meet this standard (4/10 households).
The city's solution is to throw an estimated $35 million at the problem. But this isn't solving the problem. Not even close.
- What does the $35 million buy the city?
This week the mayor announced $4.4 million to fund landscape improvements at outside Wifi hotspots at a few libraries; digital navigators to give instruction to residents on how-to use technology; and redesign public computer spaces. Going to connect few if any residents — certainly not 'at-scale' connections.
Previously, The $6mm funded a new city agency: the Broadband and Digital Equity office with staffers and office expense. Fiber expansion to 23 city owned rec centers and creating 100 city-owned Wi-Fi hotspots.
Again, limited impact on the 100,000 locations without fiber or wire internet connection.
The mayor just spent $10.6 million and stoked the city library but did little to solve internet connectivity for the people!
- What would you suggest? What should the high impact policy be?
The city has $35 million: it could help 83,000 households (locations without wire or cable) get connected to high-speed internet for the next twelve months.
Low-income households get subsidized by the feds for another $30 per month. Therefore, the city pays $70 per month for 100,000 households, and it's five full years of guaranteed high-speed internet for all 100,000 households!
Details: Negotiate a contract with Elon Musk's Starlink high speed satellite internet at $100/month per family (normal rate $150/month). For low income households, the feds will pay $30 per month.
If the city splits the remaining $70 per month with households, then taxpayers pay $35 and the household pays $35. Then, 83,000 households are online for the next 12 months!
NO DIGITAL DIVIDE ASAP!