March’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is adding $20 million to Delaware’s broadband infrastructure, the state announced this week.
The funding will be used to expand high speed internet access, acquire equipment and services for families in financial need, and gather strategic data through a statewide speed survey.
“We know that access to high-speed broadband is as essential as any public utility, and the COVID-19 pandemic made that need even more evident — the day of reckoning for broadband is here,” said Delaware Chief Information Officer (CIO) James Collins in a statement. “We are very much encouraged by the significant progress that has been made but we have more to do. We will continue to pursue any and all avenues available to us to ensure digital equity across our entire state.”
In addition, in Kent and Sussex counties, 15 towers in the current phase of the Rural Wireless Broadband Initiative will be fast-tracked to be completed about four months ahead of schedule, thanks to $566,000 from the Delaware Department of Education’s CARES Act funding. The initiative, a public-private partnership with Maryland-based high-speed internet company Bloosurf, is expected to serve more than 1,500 customers in rural areas and has capacity to expand.
“These past few months, our staff was tasked with the great challenge of providing remote instruction, a concept that really transformed how we taught our students and more importantly how we could serve their needs. This task seemed almost insurmountable as we learned how many of our students and staff lived in remote areas with little internet reliability or connectivity,” said Elyse Baerga, supervisor of student services for Woodbridge School District.
“The State’s commitment towards improving these conditions is critical to our students’ continued success,” she said. “As all school districts throughout the state plan and prepare for hybrid learning we will be relying on these resources to improve our ability to deliver instruction and services, to better serve our students.”
The critical importance of internet access was a topic at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce virtual Back to Work Conference this summer, with a discussion featuring Collins, Kevin Broadhurst of Comcast and Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation. Watch it here: