BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Schools are still starting their semester online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Parents, teachers, Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises and Comcast want to make sure students have the Internet access they’ll need in order to get to class.

“Having a reliable Internet connection is essential,” Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott said.

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A City Council hearing on Thursday night addressed unreliable Internet access for students.

“You would see the screen and it starts to freeze,” said senior Kimberly Vasquez. “I’m angry. I don’t think I should have to go through this.”

She’s not alone. 40 percent of homes in Baltimore don’t have a wired Internet connection.

“If you can’t get online, you can’t learn,” Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen said. At the meeting, parents turned to Comcast for answers.

“Did you turn your back on your customers when they needed you the most?” asked parent Joe King.

“We’ll work to get every community in Baltimore connected,” Misty Allen is Vice President of Government & Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Beltway Region said.

Comcast is offering eligible, new Internet Essentials customers two months of free internet service through the end of the year, but then, it transitions to a paid service of $9.95 a month.

City Schools has given out thousands of WiFi hot spots and laptops to students, but Dr. Santelises said it might not be enough.

“We are going to need some kind of robust infrastructure and access for our students,” she said.

Comcast said they’ll do more in the fight for better service at a lower cost.

“It can happen here, I have confidence its going to happen,” Allen said. “We can’t do it all alone as one company, this is the start of that conversation.”

Santelises said roughly 20,000 of their students don’t have Internet access, a challenge for those kids come the first day of school.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Annie Rose Ramos

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