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City officials on Friday release a draft of its Smarter City Task Force Report, part of a project officials say is designed to help Baltimore enhance its broadband connectivity.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named a 27-member task force last year, with representatives from government, business and nonprofit sectors, to recommend ways to promote and expand broadband access. The task force worked with the city's Department of Planning, Baltimore Development Corporation and the Mayor's Office of Information Technology.

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"While Baltimore has been at the cutting edge in some areas of technology, entrepreneurship and start-up companies, it was clear to me that more planning was needed to lay out a path for our city's digital future," Rawlings-Blake said in a press release. She said the work of the task force will "help all of Baltimore better integrate technology and innovative thinking into our city's DNA."

Goals and strategies are outlined in the report to guide the city in developing initiatives, programs and projects to improve technology. Recommendations include mapping all existing public, private and institutional fiber optics in Baltimore with an eye toward identifying gaps for future projects. The report also calls for inclusion of "spare conduit" as part of major public works projects to provide for future broadband needs.

The report notes that the city and the surrounding counties are part of the Inter-County Broadband Network, which over the past three years has added more than 1,000 miles of new fiber to an existing network of 2,400 miles. The report states that "while much fiber is installed and available, additional investment is required to build out the network to connect more businesses and homes."

The report says better broadband access will lead to economic development, civic engagement and more efficient government. As part of its recommendations, the task force also calls for a detailed plan, timeline and annual "report card" to chart progress.

The draft of the complete Smarter City Task Force report is available at smarterbaltimore.org. The public is invited to comment on the report through July 19 by emailing info@smarterbaltimore.org.

mcollins@baltsun.com

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