Project waves provides free internet, computer training and computer equipment to the combined 200 residents of Ashland Towns and Hollins House – an East Baltimore apartment complex and a West Baltimore living center for seniors and people with disabilities, respectively – through a five-year partnership with a nonprofit real estate developer Business community development.
This new partnership expands on Project Waves’ previous work to establish more equitable internet access in apartment complexes, retirement communities, social housing and other multi-unit units. All of these efforts are aimed at bridging Baltimore’s vast digital divide that came under intense scrutiny at the start of the pandemic.
“We are learning that the properties themselves are like neighborhoods,” Project Waves CEO Samantha Musgrave Told Technically. “When we give away a Chromebook or connect someone’s device to the service, that’s often just the beginning. We need to help people learn how to identify a secure Wi-Fi network, start using the Internet. Many of our residents are creating their first email addresses and need practice using these things.
Hollins House residents have already been connected to the free resource, and Ashland Commons is expected to follow by the end of June. The partnership and funding of organizations like the France Merrick Foundation, Internet Society Foundation and the Maryland Comptroller’s Office enable Project Waves to provide these free services through 2027. Residents also receive digital literacy training, on topics such as configuring privacy settings or accessing telehealth services, to help them better part of the Internet.
In 2022, Project Waves is also partnering with Chesapeake Volunteers of America to provide two more collective dwellings with free internet by the end of August. The hope is that with partnerships like this, alongside continued involvement in these multi-housing communities, Project Waves will serve a few thousand clients by the end of the year.
Each complex gets symmetric speeds of 350 Mbps. Musgrave notes that the organization provides this in places where ISPs don’t traditionally offer similar speed.
“They use a DSL connection and the owner has given office staff hotspots because the speeds are so dismal,” Musgrave said. “It really shows the community and the people in those decision-making spaces what it’s like to provide useful internet service as we fight the digital divide.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-