From its biggest city to its most isolated regions, Maryland suffers from a lack of high-speed internet access and other inequities that disproportionately hurt the state’s Black residents. Here, we note three recent efforts through which federal agencies, local government leaders and a major utility provider are trying to promote more equitable access to broadband and STEM opportunities — starting with two that impact the state’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs):
U.S. Department of Commerce’s Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program awards millions in grants to HBCUs
The federal Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has granted over $7.1 million to the historically Black University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and Morgan State University through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Internet for All initiative.
The program’s objective is to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas. These funds, which went to HBCUs across the country, were awarded on the heels of Coppin State University’s announcement that it would receive a $3.9 million federal grant through the program. The grant aims to provide 2,000 laptops to West Baltimoreans. An NTIA announcement outlines these plans and amounts for UMES’ and Morgan State’s latest awards:
- “University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s ‘Rebuilding Our Digital Road: Digital Infrastructure Re-imagining’ project aims to expand broadband internet access and connectivity to connect UMES’s dynamic and innovative education and outreach programs with the broadband capacity that will support their value as roads for students and patrons to expand career pathways, education, and opportunities for economic mobility.”
- For this effort, the Princess Anne, Maryland-based school received just under $3 million.
- “Morgan State University’s ‘META (Miles of Education through Technology Access) Zones’ project aims to deliver novel and timely services to both students and local ‘hyper-disparity’ communities as well as reduce the digital divide amongst Morgan State students and the low-income communities the university has selected to serve.”
- The federal government supported the Baltimore-based college’s project with $4.1 million.
Digital Equity Day Set to Take Place in Annapolis on March 14
Digital Equity Day, which shares a similar mission of promoting connectivity and digital equity as the aforementioned grants, will take place on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Governor Calvert House in Annapolis.
The event is being organized by the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition (BDEC). In discussing the event’s scope, BDEC executive director Cody Dorsey mentioned how far digital equity efforts go beyond providing access to the internet, affordable devices and digital literacy skills; they can also create economic opportunities. He did note, however, that while BDEC looks forward to hosting events that promote digital equity for the community, participation in the Annapolis event is limited due to space capacity.