May 27, 2020-The Maryland Farm Bureau welcomes Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement of nearly $9.6 million in funding, which will be administered by the Office of Rural Broadband, to support broadband internet connectivity for more than 5,000 households and businesses in Maryland’s rural counties and communities. Housed in the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Office of Rural Broadband was established by executive order in 2017 to expand broadband capabilities statewide in rural areas of Maryland.
“Connectivity has always been important to rural Marylanders, but this unprecedented shift to teleworking and distance learning puts a spotlight on the most underserved and least connected parts of our state,” said Maryland Farm Bureau Executive Director, John Torres. “This funding is a welcome and important step in the right direction for rural broadband in Maryland.”
The Office of Rural Broadband provided nearly $2.3 million to eight local jurisdictions in western and southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore through the Maryland Broadband Pilot Funding Program. With this funding, local governments will partner with an Internet Service Provider serving the community to develop and manage projects to extend existing networks to incorporate underserved or unserved households. The projects receiving funding will provide internet access to more than 1,300 households and approximately 70 businesses in rural communities.
Additionally, nearly $7.3 million was provided through the Maryland Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, designed to support the construction of necessary broadband infrastructure to expand services. Approximately $5.1 million in funds will support three large-scale broadband infrastructure projects in Somerset, Garrett, and Charles Counties. Nearly $2.2 million of this funding was awarded to the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, Inc. and will extend broadband service to an estimated 950 households in Allegany, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, and Wicomico Counties.
This funding follows the Board of Public Works’ prior approval of emergency broadband resources to five jurisdictions. Funds were used to expand access to school and library broadband networks in rural communities in response to the COVID-19 Stay At Home Order.