No one should be left out or left behind in this new innovation economy. A digital divide separates those who have access to technology from those who don’t – and that’s why I’m fighting to bridge that divide by bringing broadband to every county in Maryland.
Whether you’re building a boat on the Eastern Shore or building a small business in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, you need broadband. If you want to reach out to the world, you need broadband.
I began putting money in the federal checkbook to build out Maryland’s broadband infrastructure in 2006. That included more than $18 million to wire the Eastern Shore from Wallops up along the shore and across the Bay Bridge to Patuxent River. Then, I fought to include $4.7 billion in competitive broadband grants in the Recovery Act passed by Congress in 2010.
Last year, I announced that Maryland will receive $115 million in stimulus funds to bring broadband to the entire state through the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN) project. And earlier this month I helped cut the ribbon on a logistics center in Elkridge, marking the official kickoff of the ICBN project.
But it’s not about money – it’s about momentum. Momentum to create jobs. Over the next two and a half years, there will be 1,800 more jobs in construction, from the highly trained engineers to the heavy lifters who actually move the dirt to get the job done. Plus, it will lead to thousands more jobs we don’t even know about yet.
The federal dollars will build more than 1,200 miles of high-speed Internet line, linking together three independent broadband networks and extending affordable and abundant Internet access to more than 1,000 anchor institutions – including 458 schools, 44 libraries, 262 police and emergency centers, 15 community colleges, 6 universities and 221 other government and community support centers. The new network will connect the state from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, reaching 2 million homes and 443,000 businesses.
Forty years ago, interstate highways were crucial for economic growth in our rural areas. Now it’s the information superhighway. We will be the only state in the U.S. to be completely wired. No one will be isolated. No one will be redlined. That means economic development, jobs and innovation – whether you are a small business, a school or a major employer. We will truly be one Maryland and ready to roll.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski represents Maryland in the United States Senate.