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Delegates: Md. needs statewide broadband strategy | READER COMMENTARY

A technician works on a line used to provide broadband internet service in a rural area on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Stowe, Vt. Vermont officials are working to expand internet service using federal pandemic relief funds. But they are scrambling because the projects, which can frequently take years to plan and build, must be done by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
A technician works on a line used to provide broadband internet service in a rural area on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Stowe, Vt. Vermont officials are working to expand internet service using federal pandemic relief funds. But they are scrambling because the projects, which can frequently take years to plan and build, must be done by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring) (Wilson Ring/AP)

We read with interest of Maryland’s plans to build a wireless network that students could access in coming years (”Maryland has a plan to beam internet to rural students. But officials say it won’t be ready until next year,” Aug. 29). That plan is being spearheaded by the Office of Rural Broadband, an office that Gov. Larry Hogan created by executive order in 2017.

Undoubtedly, it has done excellent work to help equip some of our rural counties to expand broadband availability and position themselves to be able to apply for federal grants and recruit internet service providers. We support this extension of service to students in rural counties all over Maryland — it is clear that the private market has failed and government intervention to ensure that every Maryland resident has access to high-speed internet is needed. However, there are a significant number of students who live in more urban and suburban jurisdictions that are also not connected.

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Some of these students are not connected because of the same market failures that led to lack of access for those students in rural counties — they are not physically able to connect. And some students are not connected because the cost is prohibitive. Baltimore City Public Schools is looking at paying the bill for some of its students and providing hot spots and other patchwork fixes. Ultimately, what is needed is a statewide strategy for ensuring every Marylander has affordable, reliable access to high-speed internet.

We look forward to working with our colleagues from around the state on this issue in the coming session.

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Sandy Rosenberg, Brooke Lierman and Stephanie Smith, Baltimore

The writers, all Baltimore Democrats, represent Districts 41, 46 and 45, respectively, in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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