Talbot County, Maryland, has issued a Request for Information for Partnership for Deployment of High-Speed Broadband (RFI). Submissions are due no later than September 1st.
Looking For Ideas From Potential Partners
The RFI describes the county’s desire to work with a private sector partner who can bring gigabit capacity (1,000 Megabits per second) to the community. While county leaders prefer Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) they note that the rural character and geography of the region may require a hybrid fiber/wireless solution.
The county plans on offering assistance in obtaining grant funding, providing access to rights-of-way and existing public assets, and easing any partner through the permitting process. The county encourages all types of entities to submit responses, including incumbents, cooperatives, and nonprofit organizations.
This Is Talbot County
Approximately 38,000 people live in Talbot County, which is located on the state’s eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Both Baltimore and Washington D.C. are 90 minutes away; Easton (pop. approx. 16,000) is the county seat.
Agriculture has been an important part of the county’s economy since European settlers landed there in 1630 and it continues today with corn, soybeans, and poultry. Healthcare is also an economic driver in part due to the high number of retirees in Talbot County. Tourism that centers on the community’s proximity to the ocean also employs many residents.
The Connectivity Situation
Fiber-coaxial networks exist in Talbot County, including a municipal network in Easton and areas in the county where private provider Atlantic Broadband offers Internet access. Many of Atlantic Broadband subscribers are in the bay communities in the western areas.
The RFI states that incumbent Verizon supplies DSL via its copper infrastructure to more populated areas. There is also fixed wireless available in some areas.
The other side of the county is underserved and contains almost 2,800 households and commercial premises. Population density is low but many of the properties have high home values. County leaders want the results of the RFI to address connectivity in this area. An electric cooperative and a larger power company provide electricity in the underserved section of the county, but neither offer broadband.
Multiple sectors of Talbot County have expressed concern over the future unless Internet access improves in the region. School officials are worried about availability and cost, as are people working in tourism. Real estate professionals have described loss of home value and farmers are increasingly depending on connectivity for day-to-day operations.
From the RFI:
The County may also consider models which could include, but are not limited to, the following scenarios:
- Private construction, operation, and maintenance of privately-owned fiber optic infrastructure;
- Publicly or privately constructed open-access infrastructure that allows other qualified providers to offer service over the network;
- Private provisioning of services over infrastructure that is constructed, owned, operated, and maintained by the Partner.
The County will also consider any combination of these models as well as alternative suggestions proposed by respondents.
July 28, 2017 – Deadline for submitting letter of intent to respond to RFI
August 4, 2017 – Deadline for submitting questions about RFI
August 18, 2017 – Responses to questions issued
September 1, 2017 – RFI responses due