HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — One of the many things we have learned from the pandemic is how important it is to be connected online. After the most recent session of the General Assembly, lawmakers in Annapolis and educators are out to bridge that digital divide.

More than a half-million Marylanders are not connected to the internet. For them, that limits their access to education, health care, benefit programs and earning a living.

Anne Arundel County Senator Sarah Elfreth and Baltimore City Delegate Brooke Lierman worked with the United Way of Central Maryland to pass a bill in this last session of the General Assembly to assure an internet connection to every Maryland household in the next five years.

“We must support efforts at the local level, work through private-public partnerships and more,” said Lierman, “to make sure that we’re moving with more urgency toward getting every Marylander connected.”

In Washington County, Stan Stouffer is vice president of the Board of Education. With students confined to their homes for most of the past year, he saw first hand that the internet is not just a luxury, but is essential to the digital infrastructure of every community.

“I think its very important that we do expand broadband,” Stouffer explained. “We found out with the pandemic and virtual schooling that not all children have access to it. They had to use hot spots.”

Lierman says accessible broadband will eliminate social and economic disparities in both urban and rural communities across Maryland. As a candidate for Maryland State Comptroller next year, she would be in a position, as a member of the state Board of Public Works, to encourage investment in technology closing that digital divide.

The digital connectivity bill passed the Maryland Senate unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Hogan within hours after the General Assembly adjourned earlier this month.