BALTIMORE — On Tuesday, Mayor Brandon Scott announced what the city plans to do with $641 million dollars the city received as part of the American Rescue Plan act.
A large chuck of those funds will be used to help close the digital divide and improve internet access throughout the city.
$35 million is what the city is allocating to improve Internet access at recreation centers and inside homes.
Justin King who's the IT director for Baltimore City Recreation and Parks said he’s been waiting a long time to see these changes in the city.
“This is a big deal, it’s really good news this is a project that I was working on prior to the funds existing,” King said.
Mayor Scott announced that 23 recreation centers mostly on the cities west side will receive a new fiber optics system improving the infrastructure of their internet access.
“The fiber network is city owned and it is much faster it is much more reliable it is much more secure and scalability,” King said.
King said right now most of the rec centers receive internet through a third party, which can be costly for the city and not as reliable as the new system is projected to be.
But the timeline to completing the project is extremely tedious.
“It’s quite the in-depth process. That project starts with first coming out surveying the area and existing conduit in the manholes. A lot of the existing fiber optics in the city is run from firehouses so we typically look for what’s the nearest fire house we can connect to. Then we run it in the conduit to the building and then run it in the ceiling or on the walls to its ultimate location and network cabinet.
The recreation centers receiving the new WiFi upgrade include :
· Bentalou #20
· Carroll F Cook #8
· Cecil Kirk #6
· Crispus Attucks #19
· Dewees #9
· Ella Baliey #15
· Fred B. Leidig #11
· Gardenville #12
· Greenmount #4
· Herring Run #14
· Hilton #2
· James D Gross #13
· James McHenry #3
· Lillian Jones #21
· Madison Square #16
· Medfield #10
· Mora Crossman #7
· Oliver #22
· Patapsco #23
· Roosevelt #5
· Samuel FB Morse #1
· Solo Gibbs #18
· Woodhome #17
And, although there’s $35 million being put into the project this will likely save the city money overtime.
“There’s maintenance here and there but there is no monthly fees associated with running our own network,” King said.
And the rec centers aren’t the only focus of the project. Mayor Scott said 100 hot-spots will also be installed in 10 West Baltimore communities to receive free WiFi. Those communities include Mondawmin, Reservoir Hill, Upton, Sandtown-Winchester, Penn North, Druid Heights, Madison Park, Coppin Heights, Easterwood, and Bolton Hill.
“One of the big purposes of this whole thing is to change the narrative of Internet not being a luxury no Internet in this day and age is a requirement it’s a utility just like water and electricity,” King said.
The changes are something not only kids attending the rec centers can appreciate but people in underserved communities who need WiFi as well.
“So that’s like a big part of this project is to completely change the narrative on what broadband access is,” King said.