Diversity & Inclusion
Economics / Internet / Municipal government

How Fibertech and Broad Valley are working to improve broadband in Sussex County

The two companies discussed the state of broadband in Sussex County and how they're teaming up to improve it at a panel discussion in Georgetown.

UD policy scientist Troy Mix (left) moderates a panel comprised of Peter Aquino, Ed Timmons and Drew Mullin. (Photo by Tony Abraham)

Delaware may be No. 1 in the country in terms of internet speed, but that most certainly does not include the southernmost part of the state. Why?
A multi-panel conference on the state of broadband in Sussex county, hosted by University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative and the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee aimed to provide some answers.
“The way the Federal Communications Commission records data, they look to see if anybody on a certain census tract has broadband,” said Bill Risse, Municipal Projects Manager at Scranton, Pa.-based network provider Conxx, Inc. “If one customer has it, the entire tract is reported as being served.”

Open-access infrastructure is important to our industry.

As of now, the data the FCC is working with comes from unregulated private ISPs, and is therefore considered proprietary information (though that could soon change).
While it may seem as though all of Delaware has outstanding internet connection, we know for a fact this is not the case for Sussex County farmers and small businesses alike.
“Whenever the internet goes down, we either have to send everybody home or keep them busy doing something else like prepping packages,” said E Revolution Ventures’ CTO Ed Timmons. “You can only do so much of that. Anytime flow stops, it costs us a lot of money.”
Thanks to a few public-private partnerships, those connectivity concerns might very well be assuaged as soon as September.
“It’s a team effort,” said Drew Mullin, VP of Product Management and Strategy at Fibertech Networks. The fiber-optic provider (which already has 300 miles of network throughout the state) recently won a $1M grant from the Department of Technology and Information to lay more fiber across Sussex municipalities.
The best part? Fibertech’s infrastructure is preconditioned for collaboration with other providers. It’s a key component within their business model.
“Open-access infrastructure is important to our industry,” said Mullin. “You’re competitors, but sometimes you’re customers.”
That’s where Broad Valley comes into play. The year-old startup has partnered with Sussex County to build a fiber ring around Georgetown. The ring will be built around “four key locations,” according to CEO Peter Aquino. Broad Valley hopes to not only connect their network with Fibertech’s, but with existing infrastructure in Maryland.
“We would be be leap-frogged into the future, right into an urban feel,” he said. “And everyone along the way could actually make a business of it.”
Both Fibertech and Broad Valley hope to complete their respective projects by September of this year. According to Aquino, the actual build only takes about six weeks. The hard part is obtaining permits. Once those permits are acquired, the pending economic impact these two companies could have on Delaware as a whole will be invaluable.
“You can retain talent, you attract businesses to your area, it’s fuel for economic development,” said Aquino. “This is not just a hobby — this is necessary for lower Delaware to improve. It’s all for the greater good.”
Mullin agreed.
“You don’t know what you’re going to do with that bandwidth until you have it,” he said. “And then you come up with a business application.”
As the old saying goes: teamwork makes the dream work.

Companies: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) / Department of Technology and Information / University of Delaware

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