Tag: "maryland"

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.

Posted July 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

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.

logo-easton-md-utilities.png

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...

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Posted May 15, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 252 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Westminster, Maryland, has developed a public-private partnership with Ting, and Robert Wack the city council president joins the show to discuss how the project is meeting its goals. Listen to this episode here.

 

Robert Wack: When he brings clients or vendors or just friends into his office, he sits them down at his desk and says, "Watch this." And he shows off his gig like it's his new, shiny, red Corvette.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 252 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. When Christopher was at the Broadband Community's conference in Austin recently, he had the opportunity to check in with Robert Wack, city council president from Westminster, Maryland. Westminster is a town of about 18,000 people that decided the best way to improve local connectivity for schools, businesses, and residents was to invest in publicly-owned fiber and work with a private sector partner. In 2015, they began working with ISP Ting. Robert was the leading voice of the initiative. He gives Chris an update on how things are going in Westminster and the two talk about expectations, realities, plans, and challenges. Robert was on the show way back in 2014 for episode 100, when the project was just getting started. And we've written about Westminster for muninetworks.org as the community network has grown. Be sure to check it out. Now here's Christopher with Robert Wack, city council president from Westminster, Maryland.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to the Community Broadband Bits podcast live edition, coming to you live from the Broadband Community Summit with Robert Wack, the city council president from Westminster, Maryland. Welcome back to the show, Robert.

Robert Wack: Thanks, Chris. Glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm excited to get an update, because I know that things have been going well. I've been following and I don't think we've talked about this much since maybe we did a podcast talking about the public-private partnership as you were getting it kicked off.

Robert Wack: It was a long time ago. And as...

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Posted May 10, 2017 by christopher

If you picked up the Institute for Local Self-Reliance dictionary, under "public-private partnership," it would say "See Westminster and Ting fiber-optic network." We discussed it with Westminster City Council President Robert Wack in episode 100 of Community Broadband Bits and he rejoins us for episode 252 to update us on the progress they have made.

We get an update on the construction process and the exciting developments around the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (previous accomplishments noted here). One piece of good news is that they are hitting the milestones needed in the business plan for the network to break even financially. 

We also discuss the importance of finding a good partner to work with. Communities seeking a similar partnership cannot just copy this arrangement - they might start with it as a blueprint but will have to mold it to their circumstances and partner.

To learn more about Westminster, read our paper on partnerships and the Westminster tag on this site. Also, this interview from last year... 

 

Read the transcript of the show.

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

This show is 30 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...

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Posted August 27, 2016 by lgonzalez

Time to check in at Harford County, Maryland. When we last reported on the Harford Metro Area Network (HMAN) in July 2014, it had only been lit for a few months. Now, more than 100 public facilities are connected to the network and more are expected; the latest will be Bel Air, Maryland.

Saving With County Connections For VoIP

A recent GovTech article reported that the Board of Town Commissioners voted 4-0 to invest approximately $25,000 in a new VoIP system that will use HMAN for telephone service. The new system will serve 65 new phones and will include the software for the new system. Apparently, Bel Air sought cost estimates to replace their old traditional system with VoIP with a private provider and the estimates were more than $65,000 beyond what the city had budgeted for the project.

We often point to significant public savings when local government uses publicly owned infrastructure for Internet access, but switching from traditional phone service to VoIP via a muni can reduce communications costs even more. In places such as schools, government offices, and other administrative facilities where there are multiple lines, the budget for telephone service can be astronomical. VoIP eliminates leased lines and, because a fiber-optic network like HMAN is designed with redundancy in mind, users can expect reliable connections.

In addition to saving substantially, Bel Air’s new system will be compatible with the systems used by Harford County Government and the Department of Emergency Services.

HMAN connects schools, public safety facilities, libraries, government offices, and other public facilities in the northeast Maryland county. The network is 160 miles and four main rings with laterals off those rings. The network cost approximately $13.8 million, funded with general obligation bonds...

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Posted August 22, 2016 by lgonzalez

Garrett County is the westernmost county in Maryland. High in the Allegheny Mountains of the Appalachian Mountain Range; winters are harsh and forest covers 90 percent of the county. Before the county deployed a fiber-optic network, high-quality connectivity was hard to come by for schools, libraries, and other community anchor institutions. By making the most of every opportunity, Garrett County has improved efficiencies for the many small communities in the region and set the stage to improve connectivity for businesses and residents.

Rural, Remote, Ready For Better Connectivity

The county is more than 650 square miles but there are no large urban centers and over time a number of sparsely populated areas have developed as home to the county's 30,000 people; since 2000, population growth has stagnated. Many of the tiny communities where businesses and residents have clustered are remote and do not have public sewer or water. These places tend to have a high number of low-income people. 

Unemployment rates are volatile in Garrett County, fluctuating with natural resources extraction industries. As the coal and lumber industries have waned, many jobs in Garrett County have disappeared. Garrett County Memorial Hospital and Beitzel industrial construction employ over 300 people and are the county’s largest employers. 

All of these characteristics make Garrett County unattractive to the large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that want to maximize investment and focus only on densely populated urban areas. Verizon offers DSL and Comcast offers cable in limited areas but many people rely on mobile Internet access and expensive satellite Internet access.

It Started With BTOP Fiber

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In 2010, the State of Maryland received over $115 million in grant funding through the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP). With a matching $43 million from state and in-kind contributions, Maryland deployed the One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN). In August 2013, the middle mile fiber-optic network was complete, stretching 1,324 miles across the state connecting 1,068 CAIs.

OMBN runs directly into Garrett County for...

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Posted July 15, 2016 by Scott

Marking another big step forward, the mayor and Common Council of Westminster, Maryland (pop. 18,000) have hired a telecommunications, utility and government contracting firm to continue building the first two phases of the Westminster Fiber Network (WFN).

City Hires SMC

Westminster expects to complete this construction in 2017, providing Gigabit per second (Gbps) connectivity to an additional 2,700 homes and businesses in the western part of the community, according to a city news release. Cost of this phase is undetermined $21 million, Westminster marketing consultant Jason Stambaugh told us; the city will issue general obligation bonds to fund the entire cost of the network the expansion.

One year after Westminster celebrated lighting its municipal fiber network, the city hired SMC, Inc. to construct the expansion. Westminster is partnering with Toronto-based Ting to provide retail services via the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. 

“This expansion of the WFN is an important milestone and demonstrates the City’s continued commitment to revolutionize Internet access, bring local jobs, and drive innovation that will enable the community to thrive.”

Westminster began building its municipal fiber network in October, 2014, and entered into a public-private partnership with Ting in February, 2015. The city owns the infrastructure and Ting leases fiber to bring Internet service to businesses and residents. Westminster began its municipal fiber network, spending about $1.8 million to get the project started in a residential retirement community and an industrial park. 

Bonds Back Fiber Network  

Because of high demand, the City Council voted to expand the municipal fiber project, approving a $21 million general obligation bond agreement with SunTrust Bank.  

As MuniNetworks.org reported...

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