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Maryland initiative will subsidize internet costs for low-income earners, invest $100M more to expand rural broadband access

Maryland is investing an additional $100 million to expand broadband internet access throughout the state and is launching a new subsidy program to make internet access more affordable for low income families, Gov. Larry Hogan announced at a news conference Friday.

Connect Maryland, a new initiative focused on expanding broadband coverage to rural communities with the goal of providing internet access in all parts of the state by 2025, will add to the previous $300 million in federal funding allocations that was approved earlier this year.

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The new Maryland Emergency Broadband Benefit Subsidy Program combines state and federal funds to give low and moderate income households a subsidy of $65 a month for up to 12 months on the cost of internet.

Hogan said during the conference that currently, 95% of Marylanders have broadband internet access. The gap is even higher in Baltimore, where a 2020 Abell Foundation report estimated more than 40% of households lacked broadband access.

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“Making broadband more accessible in underserved areas is important but so is making it affordable in areas that already have service,” Hogan said during the news conference in Worcester County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The state has also created a Maryland Broadband Advisory Workgroup with representatives from state, county and local governments to advise the state on how to use the money.

Hogan established the Office of Rural Broadband in 2017 to work with local governments and private partners on expanding internet in rural areas. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed the Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 to reorganize it into a statewide office, Hogan said during the conference.

In 2020, the state began plans to expand internet to students in rural areas for online schooling during the pandemic.

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“The COVID pandemic has illustrated just how critical a lifeline high speed internet access is to our lives and livelihoods,” Hogan said during the conference.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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