The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week announced its commitment of over $266 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which has already granted Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library a little over $5 million.
The public library system plans to apply for more money from the FCC, as its Fund supports better connectivity for students via schools and libraries.
Such funds could help Baltimore institutions like the Enoch Pratt Free Library close the city’s own massive internet connectivity gap. Before the pandemic, 40% of Baltimore city households didn’t have internet service while one out of every three households didn’t have a laptop or desktop computer, according to a report by the Abell Foundation. This is an issue felt throughout the state, with 520,000 Maryland households not having a home wireline broadband subscription. That shakes out to roughly one in four households effectively disconnected from high-speed internet.
Nationwide, according to broadband ISP think tank BroadbandNow, 42 million Americans currently cannot purchase broadband internet. As remote work and school became a necessity instead of a luxury, internet access has become a priority for federal, state and local governments.
“In too many communities, kids are still struggling to get the internet and devices they need to connect with teachers and do their homework,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “We have to fix this. This program is helping, and I’m proud of the progress we are making to close the Homework Gap.”