Baltimore Library Opens Door to High-Speed Internet Access
Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library is at the forefront of a fundamental transformation in the role of public libraries in America — providing a free portal to high-speed Internet access.
While Pratt maintains hushed aisles of hardback volumes, much of the action in the library is happening in its computer laboratory. There one can find 160 desktops, which are enabling hundreds of unemployed or economically disadvantaged Baltimoreans to find jobs, pay their bills and complete schoolwork.
According to Carla Hayden, Pratt's CEO:
"From McDonald's to McDonnell Douglas, 85 percent of all hiring is done online. In a city like Baltimore, where 30 percent of the population has no home computer access, we have found a new role."
While Pratt's computers offer a critical lifeline to many, occasional Internet access is not a substitute for an affordable high-speed connection at home. Because competition drives affordability and broader penetration, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has called on Verizon to offer its broadband service, FiOS, to compete with Comcast in Baltimore City.
While Verizon has offered FiOS in the counties surrounding Baltimore, it appears the company has redlined the city, making its business decisions based on race and economic disparity, among other factors.
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