New funding expands broadband access in MD, provides free laptops for eligible households

 

MARYLAND – “This is something Maryland has never done before. Talking to my counterparts across the county, its not being done at this level by most states,” Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband Director Kenrick Gordon said.

Soon, up to 150,000 Maryland households will not only have internet access but a device to use it.

$30 million in grant funding from the Office of Statewide Broadband will provide laptops to underserved communities across Maryland.  “We tried to help those eligible obtain broadband service but many of those households are still sitting without a device to actually utilize that service,” Gordon said.

“Trying to apply for a job, trying to apply for unemployment, or doing your online banking through your phone sometimes is difficult.”

As the world continues to grow its digital footprint, local resources like Wicomico Public Libraries say they’ve adapted to the changes.

Now with that new device, visitors can access things like audio books and even databases right from their home. “Patrons can check out hotspots that they can take home and set up. So for a period of time that its loaned out to them, they can access the internet from home with a hotspot that’s provided by the library,” Wicomico Public Libraries Executive Director Seth Hershberger said.

“Those resources account for so many usages here at the library that if it were a branch, it would be our second largest branch by far.”

Office of Statewide Broadband Director Kenrick Gordon says the state’s goal is to make sure internet is available to every household as an essential need in our daily lives. “You need an appointment to get your car registered, you have to go on the MVA’s website. If you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor, at least I know mine, there’s a portal for that,” Gordon says.

As of now, eligible households can receive up to one device that will be distributed by local community partners.

Grant applications will open in November for those organizations with device distribution set for later this winter.

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