Project Waves is providing free internet, computer literacy training, and computer equipment to the combined 200 residents of Ashland Commons and Hollins House — an East Baltimore apartment complex and West Baltimore living facility for seniors and people with disabilities, respectively — due to a five-year partnership with nonprofit housing developer Enterprise Community Partners.
This new partnership expands Project Waves’s previous work to establish more equitable internet access in apartment complexes, retirement communities, public housing and other multi-dwelling units. All these efforts aim to shrink Baltimore’s vast digital divide that came under scrutiny at the onset of the pandemic.
“We’re learning that the properties themselves are like neighborhoods,” Project Waves CEO Samantha Musgrave told Technical.ly. “When we give a Chromebook or connect someone’s device to the service, often that’s just the beginning. We have to help folks learn how to identify a Wifi network that’s secure, how to actually begin using the internet. Many of our residents are creating their first email addresses and need practice to use those things.”
Residents of Hollins House have already been connected to the free resource, and Ashland Commons is expected to follow by the end of June. The partnership and funding from organizations like the France-Merrick Foundation, Internet Society Foundation and the Comptroller’s Office of Maryland enable Project Waves to provide these free services through 2027. Residents are also provided with digital literacy training, on topics like setting privacy settings or accessing telehealth services, to help them better leverage the internet.
In 2022, Project Waves is also partnering with Volunteers of America Chesapeake to provide two more multi-dwelling units with free internet by the end of August. The hope is that with partnerships like this, alongside continued involvement in these multi-dwelling communities, Project Waves will be servicing a few thousand customers by the end of the year.
Each complex gets 350 Mbps symmetrical speeds. Musgraves notes that the organization is providing this in places where ISPs traditionally don’t provide similar speed.
“They’re using a DSL connection and the property owner has given hotspots to the office staff because speeds are so dismal,” Musgraves said. “It’s really showing the community and folks in these decision-making spaces what delivering useful internet service, as we address the digital divide, looks like.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for 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-