Choptank Electric Looking to Bring Broadband Service to Rural Co - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Choptank Electric Looking to Bring Broadband Service to Rural Communities

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DENTON, Md.- Choptank Electric Cooperative wants to give its customers more. The co-op is trying to bring the internet to rural communities across Maryland's Eastern Shore with its broadband initiative. 

"The customers at Choptank are telling us that lack of internet service is preventing them from selling homes, developing small businesses," said Valerie Connelly, vice president of government affairs and public relations at Choptank Electric. "We're constantly hearing stories from parents who say they have to take their kids to the local McDonald's in the evening to be able to do their homework."

Connelly said the co-op already has some of the infrastructure to get the project started, which wouldn't require state money. 

"The other thing we're going to try to do is compete for funding that the Federal Communications Commission will be granting and we believe that grant will be available next summer," Connelly said. "The FCC's putting out $20 billion across the U.S. to help with broadband infrastructure."

Choptank Electric says it has the support of local governments and Maryland's Eastern Shore Delegation. 

"We believe it's a local issue," Connelly says. "I mean it's a big local area, all nine counties on the Eastern Shore, but it is local. It's a problem we've been trying to address locally."

The company estimates that as many as 40% of its customers across Maryland's Eastern Shore either don't have access to the internet or have service that doesn't meet FCC standards. Maryland's General Assembly passed a bill this year that essentially allows co-op's to use their existing equipment for broadband connections. Choptank Electric says it plans to ask the General Assembly for additional regulatory flexibility in the 2020 legislative session. 

Connelly adds that if all goes well in the legislative session, the co-op hopes to apply for the grant funding during the summer of 2020 and hear back before the end of the year. Their goal, Connelly said, is to first provide service to their members who don't have any service at all.

"Our next step is to start surveying our members to say, 'Do you have broadband? Do you have the internet service that you like?,' and then we're going to measure the speed and figure out where we need to go first," Connelly said. "Our plan is to go to the unserved areas."

For more information on the initiative, visit Choptank Electric's website here: https://supportchoptankfiber.com/

 

 

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