Maryland house introduces Public-Private Deployment Initiative
House Bill 1144, introduced by Maryland State Delegates Thomas Hucker and Brian J. Feldman would establish a private-public partnership designed to make high speed Internet available universally in Maryland. The bill would model the partnership after the extremely successful Connect Kentucky initiative.
In his introductory comments HB 1144 sponsor Tom Hucker reminded us that the United States is 16th in the world in high speed Internet adoption, and that our current Internet speeds are extremely slow compared to Japan's average 60 Mbps download speed. Hucker also pointed out that there is a digital divide, even in high-tech Maryland, highlighting the benefits of high speed Internet for things like education, telemedicine and public safety.
HB 4411 would employ three linked strategies to ensure every home and business in every region in every community has high speed Internet access. The strategies are: improved broadband data collection, community technology planning, and market research.
In the first stage, HB1144 would require the state to develop a detailed map of broadband communications infrastructure at the census block level. Right now, we don’t know which Maryland communities have broadband and at what speeds, and which communities have no broadband at all. Without this information, it is impossible to craft good solution.
Next, HB 1144 would facilitate the creation of local technology planning teams in every county in the state. These teams would include all major community stakeholders, including local businesses, health care providers, educators, librarians, community-based organizations, agriculture, and telecom unions, among other stakeholders. These teams would use the mapping and other data to identify gaps and forge solutions by developing technology plans for their region.
Finally, HB 1144 would fund market research designed to promote broadband solutions and to identify additional barriers to broadband use. In Kentucky, the research team discovered that many low-income families wanted high-speed Internet but could not afford a computer. As a result, they launched a No Child Left Offline program to provide free refurbished computers to low-income eighth grade students…
The bill has support from CWA, AFL-CIO, the Maryland High-Tech Council, and the telecommunications industry.
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