Public-Private Partnership Will Serve as Model for Rural Communities
Ahead of a Western Maryland tour beginning on Friday, Governor Larry Hogan today announced that collaborative efforts to bring improved broadband and wireless accessibility to Garrett County have been met with success. The Garrett County initiative was one of two pilot programs established by the governor’s June 2017 executive order creating an Office of Rural Broadband to improve connectivity for economic and public safety purposes, with a focus on communities that have largely been ignored.
“The ability to access the internet, while once a luxury, is a necessity in today’s world,” said Governor Hogan. “Our administration will continue to focus our efforts on providing internet access to Marylanders in rural areas of our state by working together with local county government officials and the private sector industry to implement cost-effective solutions that work.”
Fulfilling the executive order’s requirement for a pilot program in Western Maryland, the Hogan administration enabled Garrett County officials to utilize state fiber assets, including the use of Eagle Rock radio tower at no charge, through an agreement with Maryland Public Television. This portion of the project commenced ahead of schedule, bringing residents in rural Garrett County significantly closer to broadband accessibility.
As a result of negotiations with Garrett County officials, Declaration Networks Group, Inc. (DNG) entered into a long-term agreement with the county, which established funding for deployment of a state-of-the art broadband network infrastructure to deliver high-speed internet services to more than 3,000 unserved or underserved homes and businesses. The initiative was jointly developed by Garrett County and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which both contributed grant funding to the effort. DNG was selected as the private industry partner by the county through a competitive bid process.
“I am very excited about our efforts to provide high quality internet service to the residents of our county,” said Paul Edwards, Chairman of the Garrett County Board of Commissioners. “Our team, led by Nathaniel Watkins and Cheryl DeBerry, has won national awards for executing broadband initiatives in our communities. This would not be possible without the state as a strong partner through the One Maryland Broadband Network, funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission, and a great working relationship with our business partner Declaration Networks Group, Inc.”
This innovative public-private solution creates a model for ways to expand broadband and other important resources in underserved communities. The Office of Rural Broadband will continue to work local governments, tri-county councils, and key agencies and stakeholders, including the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, to ensure that all Maryland citizens have access to high-speed internet.