Sign up to stay connected
Get the top stories of the day around the DMV.
Maryland will receive $95 million from the federal government to provide broadband access to more than 16,000 households and businesses in rural and underserved communities.
The money comes from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan’s “Capital Projects Fund” administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Maryland, along with Kansas, Maine and Minnesota, will receive $357 million to support more than 83,000 households and businesses.
In June, the Treasury Department announced that Louisiana, New Hampshire, Virginia and West Virginia would receive more than $500M to increase internet access to over 200,000 homes and businesses.
Nationwide, about 42 million people do not have internet access.
“The pandemic literally brought that home in a way that we’ve never seen before where your ability to work from home and to learn from home was critical for economic, or academic … opportunity,” Gene Sperling, coordinator of the White House’s American Rescue Plan, said in a Zoom press briefing Thursday. “Having that national teaching moment, these members responded.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), one of the three senators who attended the briefing, said areas such as Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, both of which are majority-Black jurisdictions, will benefit from high-speed internet service for children to do homework, merchants to conduct businesses and other economic needs.
The Maryland Office of Broadband would assess how internet service providers would make broadband available.
Van Hollen said no timetable has been established for when families and businesses would receive service.
To provide some savings, he said eligible households will receive up to a $30 discount per month for internet service.
“The goal is to make sure everybody in every part of our state is not just connected but connected in an affordable way,” he said.
Van Hollen said this money would be in addition to the $127.6 million in federal dollars that Gov. Larry Hogan said Friday is already available.
Approximately 13 counties or service providers in those jurisdictions will receive money to construct broadband networks to support more than 15,000 households, including access already made available in parts of Harford County.
During the most recent school year in Prince George’s, the library system provided almost 900 Chromebooks that students could borrow for free. Last fall, the county had about 116,000 residents without broadband internet access.
Some Prince George’s families with limited or no internet access traveled to parking lots so students could use the school’s internet service to complete schoolwork.
During the press briefing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) told a short story about a teenage girl who resides in a rural area driving 30 minutes every Friday during the height of the coronavirus pandemic to conduct a biology project in the parking lot of a liquor store.
“That is the only place that had the high-speed internet,” said Klobuchar, who said about 144,000 rural Minnesotans are without internet access. “If [residents] can get faster internet [service] in Iceland, a country that has active volcanoes and spewing lava, maybe we can get it in rural Minnesota.”