Tag: "maryland"

Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Drawing inspiration from the association of electric cooperatives a century ago, five Maryland and Virginia cooperatives have come together to better pursue projects "aimed at encouraging the expansion of high-speed internet service in underserved rural areas." From Virginia Business, the group is comprised of: "Millboro-based BARC Electric Cooperative and its BARC Connects subsidiary; Arrington-based Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and its Firefly Fiber Broadband subsidiary; Waverly-based Prince George Electric Cooperative and its Ruralband subsidiary; as well as Chase City-based Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and its Empower Broadband subsidiary and Denton, Maryland-based Choptank Electric Cooperative and its Choptank Fiber LLC subsidiary." 

The article calls the association the first of its kind, and presumably will promote cooperation and shared use of existing electric infrastructure for quicker, more efficient broadband expansion. 

Posted November 30, 2020 by sean

The failure of policy and leadership at the federal level in addressing the digital divide was ever more clearly exposed as Covid-19 restrictions were put into place last spring. And, as the pandemic continues to rage, daunting connectivity challenges remain. 

Yes, the Connect America Fund (CAF) II program has doled out over $11 billion since 2015 in subsidies to the big telcos like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, and Consolidated ostensibly to upgrade rural broadband to speeds of at least 10/1 Megabits per second (Mbps). But, as Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting notes, it’s been a massive subsidy failure given that “even in 2015, it was ludicrous to spend money to build 10/1 Mbps broadband” – the same year the FCC defined broadband as 25/3 Mbps, which means “the FCC was investing in new Internet infrastructure in 2015 that didn’t qualify as broadband at the time of the award of funding.”

And there is reason to doubt that those subsidized upgrades were even completed, even as the FCC just extended the CAF II program for a seventh year.

So as states — and in many instances, local municipalities — step into the breach, the National Governors Association has released a new report that outlines a list of strategies governors can use to increase broadband access in underserved communities. 

Published just before Thanksgiving, the report first lays out the challenge:

According to the FCC, in 2018, at least 18.3 million people lacked access to fixed broadband in the United States that meets minimum [I]nternet access speed of 25/3. 1 Of those 18.3 million people, representing 6 percent of the total population, 14 million live in rural areas and 1 million live on Tribal lands, which amounts to 22 percent and 28 percent of those respective geographic populations [even as] studies have claimed that the FCC data is undercounting the number of people in the U.S. without fixed broadband access, and that the total may be as high as 42 million people.

“In addition to lack of access, the cost of broadband services remains a considerable barrier for many households,” the report points out. “The COVID-19 pandemic has...

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Posted September 29, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Almost 54,000 electric cooperative residents will see the benefits of a statewide law change in Maryland after a summer filled with changes. After a state vote to allow deregulation, Choptank Electric, which serves member owners across nine counties in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, voted in August to become member-regulated so that the cooperative can pursue broadband projects in a part of the state that has long suffered from poor or no connectivity options. 

A State Law and a Membership Vote

The process unfolded earlier this year, when representatives for the co-op spoke with the legislature in Annapolis about offering broadband to its members. State law at the time meant that electric utilities were regulated by the Public Service Commission, which prevented them from entering the broadband space. 

The Eastern Shore sits across Chesapeake Bay, with 450,000 people living across its nine counties. Driven by a lack of connectivity options and a desire for economic development, area legislators submitted HB 999, which drew support from dozens of businesses, 1,200 current Choptank customers, and a number of local governments. The “Rural Broadband for the Eastern Shore Act of 2020” [pdf] passed the state legislature on May 8th, 2020, and freed the co-op from regulation by the Public Service Commission. Talbot County resident Pamela Keeton testified to the Senate Finance Committee:

The bottom line is, no one wants to pay taxes and no one wants to spend money, so we’re left with no Internet service.

The move allowed Choptank to become member-regulated after two regular meetings and a membership vote, which took place from May to August both in person and electronically. Ultimately, it needed 7,000 members to vote yes. All told,...

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Posted July 18, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Across the country, state legislatures are ushering in better rural connectivity by passing new laws that enable electric cooperatives to expand high-quality Internet access. In recent years, much of this legislation has authorized co-ops to deploy broadband infrastructure along existing electric easements. Other bills have removed restrictions that previously prevented electric co-ops from providing Internet access. Together, the new legislation makes it easier for electric cooperatives to bring high-speed broadband access to their members, signaling a brighter future for unconnected rural communities

Indiana in the Lead

Indiana’s state legislature was ahead of the curve when it passed SB 478, the Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act back in 2017. The FIBRE Act permits electric cooperatives to use easements for their electric poles to also deploy broadband networks. Before the General Assembly passed this legislation, cooperatives that wanted to install communications infrastructure, such as fiber optic lines, along their electric easements would have to gain permission from each individual landowner to attach fiber to the existing poles.

Since the passage of the FIBRE Act two years ago, a number of Indiana electric cooperatives have embarked on broadband projects, including Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC), South Central Indiana REMC, Orange County REMC, and Tipmont REMC. At the announcement event for South Central Indiana REMC’s fiber project, State Senator Eric Koch, author of SB 478, noted that state legislation like the FIBRE Act was enabling electric cooperatives to expand modern connectivity to rural Indiana.

State Laws Advance Co-op Broadband

A wave of support for rural cooperative broadband initiatives rippled through state...

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Posted May 17, 2019 by htrostle

Legislative changes are helping electric cooperatives continue to expand high-quality Internet access in rural parts of America. At least three state governments have bills in the works that empower cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet service in their service territories.

Georgia, Maryland, Alabama

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently signed into law SB 2 and SB 17, which clarify that both electric and telephone cooperatives are able to provide broadband service. This change allows the electric cooperatives to use their easements which have been used for electric service to extend those easements so they also apply to equipment and lines needed in order to supply broadband service. Electric cooperatives have already been at work on providing Internet service in Georgia: Habersham Electric Cooperative operates Trailwave Network, and the Pineland Telephone and Jefferson Energy Cooperatives have partnered to bring Internet service to their communities.

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan has just approved SB 634 which similarly underscores how electric cooperatives can use their easements to provide broadband. Meanwhile in Alabama, HB 400 will codify in existing law that electric cooperatives have the ability to offer broadband service and that their easements are valid for that use. Alabama HB 400 has passed in the House and is now working its way through the Senate. Alabama cooperatives North Alabama Electric and Tom Bigbee Electric already provides high-speed Internet service in their service territories. 

Cooperatives Bring New Tech to Rural Areas

The fact is, from electricity to Internet service,...

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Posted April 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

This week, we have another interview that Christopher recorded while he was at the 2019 Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas. Dr. Robert Wack from Westminster, Maryland, where the town is partnering with Ting Internet, sat down for a conversation on telemedicine.

As the United States’ healthcare system continues to degrade, hospitals, doctors, and other caregivers are looking for new and efficient ways to provide better care for their patients. Broadband is a tool that healthcare professionals are already using for preventative care, consultation, and treatment from a distance. Dr. Wack and Christopher discuss some of the innovations within the healthcare industry that use connectivity, data, and human engagement. These approaches reduce costs and help patients by reducing the stress that accompanies unnecessary trips to the emergency room or can identify when a patient requires medical intervention from the security of their home.

Christopher and Dr. Wack also discuss some of the new challenges that accompany these innovations and strategies for bringing these programs to large groups of people, rather than focusing on small populations.

Dr. Wack updates us on the progress of the network deployment in Westminster and discusses the community’s Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC), the nonprofit established to optimize use of the fiber network they began developing in 2014.

Read more of our coverage about Westminster and their public-private partnership with Ting.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a...

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Posted September 28, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

When communities deploy Internet access infrastructure, they use their investment to reduce costs for telecommunications, improve local connectivity, and encourage economic development. In Westminster, they’re also using their fiber optic network to boost local high school students’ tech skills in a fun and creative way. The community is using publicly owned fiber optic “magic” to multiply their youth’s opportunities.

Setting the Scene

The world has experienced a devastating disaster. Communications systems are down. Your ragtag band of survivors has been hiding from the zombies for several months now. After finding a generator and some computer parts inside an abandoned building, your group decides to use the pieces to create a working computer and try to establish contact with the other scattered survivors. But will you be able to do it before the zombies reach you …?

Or at least that’s the setting for the first ever Project e-Reboot competition, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) and e-End. Teams of students were tasked with rebuilding a functioning computer from old components in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic scenario. The challenge was held at e-End’s electronics recycling facility in Frederick, Maryland, in cooperation with MAGIC, a nonprofit organization based one county over in Westminster.

Partnering for Project e-Reboot

logo-Magic-Logo.png Fifteen high school students, in teams of up to three, participated in the Project e-Reboot event on September 15. The teams, with names like “Free Pizza” and “Brogrammers,” worked together to build working computers from used parts and then use their machines to complete a variety of tasks, including accessing the Internet and printing off a document. Team Detemmienation, made up of Alana Koh, Ben Bonen, and Elizabeth Metzler, won first place...

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Posted August 6, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Dorchester County, Maryland, shored up better connectivity for local businesses this past June, utilizing a cooperative network to further fiber infrastructure and to light a business on an island chain in need of some fast Internet connectivity.

The county’s monicker, “Water Moves Us,” describes its region in southeast Chesapeake Bay, home to a number of aquaculture sites. One such business, the Hoopers Island Oyster Company servicing clientele as far away as Asia, felt itself slipping behind in international commerce without access to broadband Internet. But now that fiber optic broadband has come to Hoopers Island, which is actually a chain of three islands on the southwest coast of the county, the business has access to the latest Internet technology to mirror it’s innovative approach to oyster farming. 

Bay Country Communications (BCCTV) is the Maryland-based telecom provider that laid the fiber out to the island. According to the Dorchester Banner, this link is part of a larger fiber path:

“BCCTV is the company that established the link with Hoopers Island, running a line through central Dorchester. This line goes past Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Harriet Tubman Museum, South Dorchester School and other facilities.”

With BCCTV providing the last-mile connection to the middle mile One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN) infrastructure, the Hoopers Island Oyster Company and other local businesses can take advantage of the high-quality connectivity they need to compete globally.

Getting some backbone 

To tackle the broadband access divide, in 2010 the state of Maryland received $115 million in federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant funding, and paired that with around $40 million in matching investments to deploy an approximately 1,300-mile fiber network. To learn more about One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN), and how it helped another rural community in Maryland, you can check out our story on Garrett County. ...

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Posted March 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the early 2000s, Carroll County, Maryland, invested in publicly owned fiber infrastructure to reduce costs and improve services for public schools, county government, and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs). In addition to meeting that goal, the county’s asset connected to the Westminster Fiber Network, a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) partnership that’s brought gigabit connectivity to a community that once struggled with poor Internet access. In order to build off that success in other parts of the county, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners recently voted to allocate $400,000 to provide grants for more Carroll County Fiber Network expansion.

Second Year In A Row

The funding for 2018 follows last year’s decision to provide $1 million to expand the network. Department of Economic Development executive director Denise Beaver told that Carroll County Times that the county’s broadband committee recommended the grants because ISPs’ reasons for not investing in the rural parts of the county were primarily connected to the cost of deploying fiber.

Carroll County's elected officials decided last year to focus on connecting industrial parks and directed staff to communicate with municipal leaders to learn more about opportunities for fiber in downtown areas to spur economic development.

The Carroll County Broadband Grant Program will provide grants of up to $25,000 per project to ISPs or other entities that ensure a 50 percent matching reimbursement. Each entity can receive no more than $100,000 per fiscal year. Eligibility includes a range of types of projects, including those that involve “…the construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities or spectrum, land, towers or buildings used to deploy broadband service for business and residentially-based businesses.” 

Entities that want to apply for the grants need to be searching for funding that will bring connectivity to “unserved or underserved” areas. The county has decided to define those types of areas for purpose of the grants:

…Beaver said unserved would be defined as someone with no access to fixed Internet connection with speeds of 10 megabits per second downloads and one megabit per second...

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Posted October 17, 2017 by lgonzalez

Maryland may be home to our nation’s bustling, urban capital, but on the other side of the state are the Appalachians and many rural communities that struggle with poor Internet access. One of those communities is Garrett County. Residents, businesses, and institutions have limped along for years using outdated connections.  Some people don’t have any access to the Internet; all that is changing.

In episode 275 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, the county’s Natural Resources Business Specialist Cheryl DeBerry and county CIO Nathanial Watkins join Christopher to discuss the initiative that is changing the local connectivity landscape.

Cheryl, Nathaniel, and Christopher discuss the project that combines fiber, fixed wireless, and TV white space technologies in order to reach people and businesses across the county. They also talk about how a significant portion of people in the rural community simple can’t afford the high cost of satellite and how mobile Internet access just doesn’t cut it in a rural area like Garrett County. Cheryl describes how the project is an economic development initiative and Nathaniel shares more details about their need to combine technologies and the results.

Read the transcript of this show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

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