July 15, 2015

Cardin, Mikulski, Cummings, Ruppersberger and Sarbanes Announce New Opportunity to Bridge Baltimore’s Digital Divide

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, with U.S. Representatives Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), announced that Baltimore will be one of 28 communities selected to participate in ConnectHome, a new initiative established by the Obama Administration to provide access to the Internet for low-income families. Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing the City of Baltimore, the new project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in collaboration  with EveryoneOn and US Ignite, brings together private- and public-sector partners to deliver broadband, technical assistance and digital literacy training to students living in public and assisted housing across America.

 

“High-speed internet access is a must-have for students across Maryland. Baltimore students and their families will benefit greatly from this latest effort by the federal government to improve educational and economic opportunities for our neighborhoods. Increasing access to the Internet, educational resources and technology will make an incredible difference,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m proud of the role the federal government has taken to bring together public and private sector partners to help Baltimore.”

 

“Each and every one of Baltimore’s families should have high-speed access to the Internet so that every student can do their homework, all parents can search for jobs and everyone can stay connected to their communities,” said Senator Mikulski. “Technology is a critical tool for empowerment and no child or community should be left behind. That’s what ConnectHome is all about – closing America’s digital divide.”

 

“Access to the Internet is a necessity for students at a very early age. Children who are not connected at home are falling further behind their peers not only in grade school, but as they enter college and a high-tech working world," said Congressman Cummings.  “ConnectHome will help level the playing field for low-income families in Baltimore by connecting students online with their teachers and their schools' educational resources.  I commend the President and his Administration for creating this opportunity.  By ensuring high-speed Internet access at home, we will open up a new world of educational opportunities for our children.”

 

“I am thrilled that Baltimore will be included in the launch of this critical effort to bring Internet access to low-income families, especially those with children,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “Having the Internet at home allows students more time for research, homework and independent learning. It also helps parents improve their computer skills and enable them to search and apply for jobs online. This is about leveling the playing field for all families and providing opportunity.”

 

“More than 20 percent of Baltimoreans lack access to broadband Internet at home, preventing them from seeking employment opportunities, taking advantage of online learning platforms, accessing information about health care, and searching for goods and government services,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The ConnectHome pilot program will play an important role in helping Baltimore bridge the digital divide and will make a positive impact on our city’s communities.”

 

ConnectHome seeks to create a platform for collaboration between local governments, members of private industry, nonprofit organizations, and other interested entities that will produce locally tailored solutions for narrowing the digital divide. The investments will help to address the barriers to broadband access found in each relevant community, which may include: the costs associated with affording high-speed service and electronic devices; the need for training in digital literacy skills; and a lack of necessary infrastructure in buildings.

 

HUD’s ConnectHome initiative strives to ensure that students can access the same level of high-speed Internet at home that they possess in their classrooms. Without the allocation of additional federal dollars, ConnectHome reallocates existing resources and brings together partners to expand broadband access and to offer new technical training and digital literacy programs for residents in assisted housing units. More details can be found here. Some of the partnerships include:

 

  • Age of Learning, Inc. will make its ABCmouse.com online early learning curriculum available, for free, to families living in HUD housing in ConnectHome communities.
  • The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will produce and distribute new educational, children’s, and digital literacy content via participating local PBS stations tailored for ConnectHome participants.
  • GitHub will provide $250,000 to support devices and digital literacy training to HUD residents in ConnectHome cities.
  • The American Library Association will lead a collaboration with local libraries in all the ConnectHome communities to deliver tailored, on-site digital literacy programming and resources to public housing residents.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America will provide digital literacy training for HUD residents in ConnectHome communities that have a Boys & Girls Club.
  • Best Buy will offer HUD residents in select ConnectHome demonstration project cities, including Choctaw Tribal Nation, the computer training and technical support needed to maximize the academic and economic impact of broadband access. Best Buy will also offer afterschool technical training, for free, to students participating in ConnectHome at Best Buy Teen Centers in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, and Washington, DC.

 

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