Pratt Library to provide Baltimoreans free internet and technology

News Highlights: Pratt Library to provide Baltimoreans free internet and technology

Heidi Daniel, president and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, announced Friday that Baltimore’s library system has partnered with Project Waves, the Digital Harbor Foundation, and the PNC Foundation to provide free in-home internet to 50 families in the Southeast from Baltimore. Image via Facebook Life.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library provides free internet access to 50 households in southeast Baltimore as part of an ongoing effort to close the digital divide in Baltimore City.

“We know that COVID-19 has exacerbated and exploited pre-existing inequalities, including the digital divide here in Baltimore City,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference on Friday. “In real time, we are seeing our world becoming more digital and virtual and we have left too many people behind.”

More than 40% of Baltimore households cannot connect to the Internet in the home, said Heidi Daniel, president and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Daniel announced Friday that the Baltimore library system has partnered with Project Waves, the Digital Harbor Foundation, and the PNC Foundation to provide free internet at home to 50 families in southeast Baltimore.

Crews installed an antenna on top of the Southeast Anchor Library in Highlandtown, which will provide Internet access to 50 families whose homes will be equipped with receivers.

Daniel said the Pratt Library and their partners hope to eventually expand the program to more people.

Adam Bouhmad, director and founder of Project Waves, said that in March, nearly 30% of Baltimore students did not have the Internet service or devices they needed to effectively participate in distance learning.

The United Nations in 2016 declared Internet access a human right, but Bouhmad said people in Baltimore and beyond are still being cut off from digital resources by corporate greed.

He mentioned Comcast’s new data plan, which charges customers who don’t have an unlimited data plan $ 10 for every 50 gigabytes of data they use more than 1.2 terabytes, up to a maximum of $ 100.

Baltimore city councilors Kristerfer Burnett (District 8), Zeke Cohen (District 1) and Ryan Dorsey (District 3) and Tia Price, director of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, sent a letter to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, telling him spurred Comcast’s plan to investigate for alleged price. gouges that they said will fall overwhelmingly in low-income communities, Black and Latinx.

Kristie Fox, Comcast spokesperson, told Baltimore Fishbowl on Wednesday that “a very small percentage” of customers are using more than 1.2 terabytes of data and most people will not be affected by the change.

“Let’s not forget that this divide is racial and socio-economic, made possible by the digital realignment practices of monopolies like Comcast,” Bouhmad.

Laura Gamble, PNC’s Regional President of Greater Maryland, said that supporting better Internet access in Baltimore is “more than just a necessity,” rather, “it’s just the right thing to do for our community.”

“The digital divide is very real and, if not corrected, will have dire consequences for our city’s educational and economic health,” she said.

Daniel said the coronavirus pandemic has made internet access even more important for children to participate in online learning, adults to apply for unemployment, and seniors to learn about vaccination eligibility.

Bouhmad said Internet access is a “basic human right”, especially during the pandemic.

“Information is power, information is a voice and it is a way to connect and collaborate with others during critical and challenging times in society,” he said.

As part of another initiative by the Pennsylvania Avenue branch of the Pratt Library, the PNC Foundation helped purchase Chromebooks and hotspots intended for long-term loans to West Baltimore customers.

Library staff also provide in-person support to clients who need help finding jobs, resume writing, interview skills, career development, and more.

“We are already seeing great success stories from our graduates from this program,” said Daniel.

The Pratt Library has ordered more than 500 hotspots and more than 100 Chromebooks to lend to customers. The library system also offers drive-in Wi-Fi in eight locations, and the three mobile units are equipped with antennas to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity to Baltimore communities.

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl

Marcus Dieterle is the associate editor of the Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore after serving as deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Maryland. He was previously editor of The Towerlight. Marcus graduated from Towson University in 2018 with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science. He can be reached at [email protected] Latest posts from Marcus Dieterle (see all) Via: baltimorefishbowl.com

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