BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Baltimore City’s digital divide is still apparent, as students voiced their displeasure at City Hall Tuesday morning.
Students who organized a Multicultural Open Society, also known as SOMOS, and City Council members want Comcast to increase bandwidth so students can further their education online during the pandemic.
Kimberly Vasquez said she has to compete for internet time at home.
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“Through this pandemic, I’ve come to find out we actually have to assign time slots for each other to use the internet,” the high school junior said.
Vasquez is one of the SOMOS Organizers who said Comcast’s work to connect low-income families could be better. They want upload speeds to go from 3 megabits per second to 25 and download speeds from 25 to 100 Mbps.
Comcast told WJZ they offer educational services through June 30. In a statement, the company said said:
“There has been no company more committed to bridging the digital divide in Baltimore, and across the nation, than Comcast. Since 2011, our internet essentials program, which is the nation’s largest of its kind, has connected more than two million low income households nationally to the internet, serving approximately eight million people including 104,000 in Baltimore.”
Councilmember Shannon Sneed spoke at City Hall.
“You may not have kids that are living in your home. You may not have a student in your house, but they’re still our children and we’re still supposed to do right by them,” Sneed said.
In April, Councilman Zeke Cohen negotiated a bill with Mayor Jack Young and Council President Brandon Scott which allowed the City School district to buy over 12,000 devices.
City Hall has also committed $3 million in funds to expand access to digital devices and the internet.
“We know they can increase their speeds. We know they can open up their hot spots to the public,” Cohen said. “Comcast can afford it but our children can’t afford to wait.”
Comcast said they’ve offered 60 days of free service to any new customers, waived all back due dept. and opened thousands of WiFi hotspots in outdoor and small business locations across the city.