Maryland is aiming to expand reliable broadband connectivity in rural areas of the state through a new plan.
This week, Gov. Larry Hogan‘s administration said it is opening up $9.9 million in funding, which is part of a broader plan to bring better, affordable connectivity to underserved areas. In all, the goal is to reach 225,000 people.
“Maryland is ranked number one in America for having the fastest internet and we have been working hard to provide high-speed internet to every county in the state,” Hogan said in a statement. “Today I’m announcing that we will provide an additional $10 million this year as the first installment of a five-year, $100 million initiative that will finally provide another 225,000 Marylanders in rural communities with access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet services.”
Having high-speed internet at home is key for economic opportunity, but rural areas are among those around the country where networks have gaps. Maryland is joining states like Indiana, North Carolina and Illinois, which are among those that have recently rolled out their own rural broadband plans. Our sister site Technical.ly Delaware recently covered how a new effort from Maryland-based Bloosurf is seeking to expand connectivity and agtech in a pair of the neighboring state’s rural counties.
Within the Hogan administration, the Office of Rural Broadband was created in 2017 to specifically focus on these challenges.
The office has awarded grants for 11 pilot projects in five counties, as well as funding for an additional six counties to conduct broadband feasibility studies. In Westminster, where city officials built their own fiber network, the office provided a loan and refinanced $17 million in debt, in part to allow for customer installations over the next three years.