By Sean Streicher

BALTIMORE (WJZ) —  With the sudden boom of online learning, remote work and telehealth visits, the need for reliable internet access is stronger than ever.

But the 2019 American Community survey found that only 60% of Baltimore households had wired internet service.

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“To fully participate in society today, you need to be online,” said co-author Mac McComas.

Mac McComas is the co-author of a new report released by Johns Hopkins that lays out a plan that would start the city on the path to “digital equity.”

“This recognizes that not everybody has equal access to the Internet and devices that let them connect to the Internet. And because of that, they’re not able to fully participate in society,” McComas said.

He said there are several things that could be done to chip away at the digital divide, including creating a government Office of Broadband Authority, providing free internet to schools and libraries, as opening up city resources to attract more internet providers.

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“Baltimore has some really significant assets already. It’s not starting from zero. The city has an existing 100 Mile fiber-optic network that they use and that there’s existing capacity on,” McComas said.

It’s also important to work with organizations like the non-profit “Project Waves.”

“Our goal is to make the internet available and accessible regardless of socioeconomic status,” said Adam Bouhmad, with Project Waves.

In December, they installed a public hot spot on top of a church in west Baltimore.

“They’re building strong community partnerships that will have long-lasting effects,” McComas said.

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In an effort to make sure everyone has access to the internet. A key aspect of the new report is estimating the cost of bringing high-speed internet to thousands of people in Baltimore. They said it’s in the tens of millions and they remind people that the need for digital equity will expand beyond the pandemic.

Sean Streicher