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CENTREVILLE – Kent County has found a way to provide their citizens and businesses with high speed broadband and now the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners are open to hearing from their citizens regarding a similar proposition here.
At their March 28 meeting, the commissioners passed a motion to hold a public hearing and move forward with contract negotiations with FTS for design, engineering, construction, operations and maintenance of a fiber optic broadband network in Queen Anne’s County. A date has not yet been set for the public hearing.
Megan DelGuadio, IT Manager for Queen Anne’s County said the commissioners created a Broadband Task Force Committee last April, and their mission was to research and make a recommendation to the commissioners on the best way to move the county forward with high speed internet. Last summer, the commissioners approved the committee’s recommendation to solicit requests for proposals. Five proposals were received and reviewed by the committee, three companies were interviewed. “After much deliberation and comparison between the final two, we are here today to recommend FTS,” DelGuadio told the commissioners.
“For $8.7 million, FTS is proposing to construct 160 miles of fiber throughout Queen Anne’s County as well as provide the county government with a dedicated lit fiber network to 82 sites,” she said. “This project is estimated to actually cost $30 million, but is being financed by investors. In order for FTS investors to be willing to put their money up they require that the county sign on to use their fiber which shows investors there is an ongoing revenue stream,” DelGuadio said. “A breakdown for that $8.7 million is $6.5 million for construction and $2.2 million over 10 years for lit fiber service and maintenance to County facilities.
Currently, a second company, ThinkBig, would handle installations from the road to the homes that ask for broadband, just as they are doing now in Kent County.
If the project is approved, homes opting for broadband would pay a $400 installation rate whether their distance from the road to their home is 20 feet or a mile, which was a big concern for the Broadband Task Force Committee as the rural, farm areas of the county are underserved by other forms of internet.
An undertaking of this magnitude is similar to when the country was installing electrical lines, and some say that broadband internet is a critical utility today, not just a luxury.
Speakers from the audience that evening outlined how critical broadband is for students and business owners.
Commissioner Jack Wilson has spearheaded the research into broadband options and said that in moving forward with a public hearing and contract negotiations, “We are taking baby steps in what is going to be a long journey. We as commissioners have to take this seriously and look 10 years down the road…We have to use every tool we can now to make the future better for all of the citizens.”
Commissioner Mark Anderson agreed. “I know we lose businesses, high paying clean businesses, by not being able to move large volumes of data,” he said. “I just want to see the paperwork and let’s see what happens.”
Commissioner Robert Buckey concurred and added, “We need to stay up with the times, especially for our businesses and our kids. This is like the 1800’s when America was being wired for electricity.”
Commissioner Stephen Wilson said providing broadband to all citizens is an economic and social issue. He asked, “Where does the initial $6 million to start the project come from - without raising taxes?”
The county’s office of Community Affairs will update this topic (and other important county government news) on QAC.org and via social media such as Facebook@QACGOV.