The Carroll Technology and Innovation Council is equipping communities with tech resources, disseminating digital skills, and empowering intentional relationships with technology. Made possible by the work of our partners, we are distributing hardware and sharing resources with communities in Carroll County, MD and beyond.

10,052 households in Carroll County are eligible for SNAP benefits and 4,473 families are at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, according to Census Data. American Community Survey data reveals that 7,446 households in Carroll rely solely on a cellular data plan for internet access and 3,878 have only a cell phone for computing. Cellular plans offer limited data and not all websites are designed for smartphone access – directly inhibiting enrollment and re-certification in programs such as SNAP and Medicaid, which require access to internet enabled devices. Although a direct correlation cannot be made between only having a cell phone for computing and poverty rates, a conclusion could be drawn that a lack of resources, or living paycheck to paycheck may make the purchase of a laptop or PC and a home internet subscription more challenging or even impossible. This is supported by the number of households in Carroll living at or below the ALICE level. 27% of all households here earn just enough income to meet basic needs, such as food, housing, healthcare, a smartphone and taxes, with nothing left for emergencies, extras, or retirement saving. A household of two with children must earn more than $42.50 per hour to rise about this level.  Older adults over 65 and those under 25 represent the largest groups living at below the ALICE level.

Carroll County Government, in partnership with the State of Maryland and local Internet Service Providers, has recently made historic investments in the deployment of broadband service to areas of the county that are defined as unserved or underserved. Currently, the County has identified 6,500 homes that lack high speed broadband. By the end of 2026, 96% of the County should be connected. While broadband service is critical for remote work, telehealth, home based businesses and educational opportunities, the community cannot be truly “connected” until households have computing devices and the necessary skills to equally access and benefit from Information and Communications Technology (ICT)Recognizing the recent report from the National Skills Coalition, 92 percent of jobs now require digital skills and are a necessity in today’s job market, and digital inclusion is now a key matter of workforce development. The ownership of personal devices is essential. According to research done by the University of California, Santa Barbara, ownership of a device with a large screen (i.e. laptop, desktop) “provides a unique computing experience that cannot be replicated through public use of computers or shared devices.” With a personal device, users can navigate internet services and store data without the restrictions and risks of public spaces and shared devices. Personal devices provide additional control and security for how people get online to look for work, identify community, care for their finances, and access healthcare and other resources, such as ones for health and wellness, spirituality and religion, and entertainment and creativity.

In November 2023, the Maryland Connected Devices Program awarded 5,000 Chromebooks to Carroll County, MD. In partnership with the Carroll County Broadband Project Manager Office, the CTIC will be hosting events and working with community organizations to distribute these computers by the end of April 2024. Find an event near you.

 

Resources:

Learn more about the Chromebook program in this slide deck.

Find Chromebook distribution qualifying household information and accepted eligibility documentation.

Learn about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and see if you qualify (enrollment ends on February 7th). Explore the Lifeline program for another internet discount opportunity.

 

Carroll Digital Equity Coalition

Join the Carroll Digital Equity Coalition (CDEC) to join us in doing digital equity work. The mission of the CDEC is to connect organizations and local government, anchor and amplify digital inclusion work in Maryland, and empower communities towards digital equity. We meet on the second Thursday of each month.

Attend February 8th, 10am on Teams.