NEW CARROLLTON, MD - Governor Hogan has announced significant progress being made by the Governor's Office of Rural Broadband (recently renamed to the Office of Statewide Broadband) to expand high-speed broadband access for students and to improve data collection of Marylanders' internet speeds, which will be used to direct future funding and projects. As part of today's announcement, the state of Maryland has launched the "SpeedSurvey" website. Residents can visit https://maryland.speedsurvey.org to test the speed of their internet connection on computers, tablets and smartphones or to report an address that does not have service. See the entire News Release.
Middle Mile\Last Mile
St. Mary’s County government has undertaken a strategic approach to improving the county broadband infrastructure by leveraging available grants and marketing the availability of these opportunities to households and employers. St. Mary’s County will continue to work to ensure options for affordable, ultra-high capacity, high-speed broadband; and expanded cable offerings are available to county residents and businesses.
Middle Mile Cable Plant Expansion – See what areas have had infrastructure installed, areas we are working to install infrastructure, and future areas we are planning to expand on our Middle Mile Map. On Janaury 12, 2021 the Commissioners of St. Mary's County authorized staff to submit to the Governors Office of Rural Broadband, St. Mary's County's FY21 Expansion of Existing Broadband Networks Application Package. Notice of award was received on April 29, 2021 and acceptance and project implementation has been initiated.
Last Mile efforts - working with our existing cable service providers, St. Mary's County is working to identify all addresses that do not have access to wired broadband and improve access as funding opportunities allow. Staff and vendors have recently completed a countywide reviewed Franchise Agreement compliance by confirming addresses currently listed as "not serviceable" but, located within 300 feet of the existing cable plant are identified and properly documented as serviceable. A "serviceable address" means wired broadband service can be activated at this location. Currently, the actual footages necessary to connect all identified residential addresses "not serviceable" are being determined.
Emergency Broadband Benefit (Infographic)
The FCC announced that on May 12, 2021, eligible households will be able to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit.
In announcing the official launch date, Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated:
“Families in every corner of the country have been struggling to get online throughout this pandemic. For those families, we now say help is around the corner. In less than two weeks, we will have a new way for disconnected Americans to access the internet to carry out their day-to-day life, so they can reach the virtual classroom, take advantage of telehealth, and seek new employment opportunities.”
Beginning on May 12 households can apply in three ways:
1) - Contact your participating broadband provider directly to learn about their application process. Approved Cable Franchise providers operating within St. Mary's County are:
* Atlantic Broadband (website)
2) - Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
3) - Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with proof of eligibility to: Emergency Broadband Support Center P.O. Box 7081 London, KY 40742
Wireless Broadband Education Network
The Office of Statewide Broadband has proposed a wireless, LTE network using frequency provided by the FCC for educational purposes, or available unlicensed frequencies. The proposal would use state and local jurisdictional towers, including radio towers and water towers, for radio equipment installation. Where towers do not exist, the network could utilize 70-100 foot wooden poles for signal infill. Backhaul plans include fiber or microwave depending on the resource availability. It is estimatated that each county will require 12-15 towers for service and construction of the network across 18 rural counties. Utilizing the state broadband asset map, as well as local mapping, will determine the possible locations for equipment. With a concerted effort and cooperation from both state and local jurisdictions, this network could be constructed in 8-12 months.
BUS Grant (Completed March 31, 2021)
Last Mile - On August 12, 2020 the St. Marys County Public Schools accepted from the Governor’s Office for Rural Broadband and the Department of Housing and Community Development the Broadband for Unserved Students (BUS Grant) for $1,584,000 for the construction costs of Cable Expansions for Rural locations - beyond 300 feet, but less than 2,200 feet to existing cable plant as funding allows. This funding opportunity was provided under the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the CARES Act. The original grant period for this ended on December 30, 2020 however; a grant extension was received on January 28, 2021 from the Governor’s Office for Rural Broadband which allowed construction through March 31, 2021. All grant funding has been allocated and approved construction is complete.
Wireless - On August 12, 2020 the St. Mary's County Public Schools accepted from the Governor’s Office for Rural Broadband and the Department of Housing and Community Development the Broadband for Unserved Students (BUS Grant) in the amount of $101,820 for Wifi Hotspots to serve 580 potential student locations to meet the immediate need for connectivity as soon as possible. This funding opportunity was provided under the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the CARES Act and combined with an existing ESSER Grant will fund the connectivity to identified addresses for the entire 2021-2022 school year.
Broadband Assessment (Completed December 30, 2020)
On September 15, 2021 the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County authorized Dellicker Strategies to complete a Broadband Assessment to evaluate options for improving the regional broadband infrastructure within the county. This report compiles publicly available information, government resources and background materials to establish a baseline of information about the regional broadband infrastructure. Additionally, it adds results from the St. Mary’s County Household Broadband Survey, which received almost 2,600 responses, and the Employer Broadband Survey, which included 99 local employers. Combined, these sources provide a broad and current perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of the regional infrastructure and a roadmap for ways to leverage this information to make improvements. This analysis was presented to the Commissioner's of St. Marys County on January 12, 2021, is written for a non-technical audience and the recommendations are designed to be practical and achievable. The Executive Summary and The Broadband Assessment Report
The Federal Communications Commission's Auction 904: Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is the Commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide. Talkie Communications has been awarded the RDOF areas for St. Mary’s County (map). The areas that are in color are the areas where funding was won in the area. The RDOF funding is about 30% of the actual construction cost for buildout.
Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers
Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services. Lifeline is part of the Universal Service Fund. The Lifeline program is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, territory, commonwealth, and on Tribal lands. Visit the FCC's Lifeline website for more details.
County Cable Franchise(s)
08182020 Broadband for Unserved Students (BUS) Grant Presentation
Approved Plan of Action - Original
August 18, 2020 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Agenda
August 18, 2020 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Video
January 12, 2021 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Agenda
January 12, 2021 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Broadband Update Video
Approved Plan of Action - Updated
April 13, 2021 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Broadband Update Video
2020 Approved Cell Tower Antenna Permits Map
If you have a question or comment, email Bob.Kelly@stmarysmd.com