Connecting St. Mary's County
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.
Grants and Funding
Office of Statewide Broadband
Through partnerships with local jurisdictions and the private sector, the Office of Statewide Broadband provides funding and technical assistance to help improve broadband access to Maryland communities. Check out their website at Office of Statewide Broadband (maryland.gov).
Affordable Connectivity Program
January 21, 2022 - The FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that establishes rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
On December 31, 2021 the FCC launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). This program was created by Congress in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, and replaces the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. This investment in broadband affordability will help ensure households can afford the internet connections they need for work, school, health care and more.
The ACP provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
Enrollment in the ACP is now open for households with at least one member qualifying under any of the following criteria:
- Has an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines;
- Participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline;
- Participates in Tribal specific programs, such as Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal TANF, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;
- Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income program.
Broadband for Unserved Students Grant (BUS)
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 however, some unserved student addresses may benefit from other Middle Mile and Last Mile work being performed - BUS Grant Monthly Status Report.
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.
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 build-out.
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.
Internet Service Providers (ISP's)
The FCC has concluded that cable modem service is properly classified as an interstate information service and is therefore subject to FCC jurisdiction. The FCC determined that cable modem service is not a "cable service" as defined by the Communications Act. The FCC also said that cable modem service does not contain a separate "telecommunications service" offering and therefore is not subject to common carrier regulation.”
Federal Law 47 U.S.C. 253 Section (a) - "In General. No State or local statute or regulation, or other State or local legal requirement, may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service."
Although ISP's are not regulated by St. Mary's County Government, we have been actively working with and encouraging commercial Internet Service Providers to expand their service offerings into our community. St. Mary's County Government will continue this work - fostering competition as vendors evaluate how their business model can support expansion into our county.
NTIA Digital Map
On June 17, 2021 the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released (Press Release) a new publicly available digital map that displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country. This is the first interactive, public map that allows users to explore different datasets about where people do not have quality Internet access.
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.
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.
- February 16, 2022 Updated Approved Plan of Action
- December 16, 2021 Updated Approved Plan of Action
- July 29, 2021 Approved Plan of Action
- April 13, 2021 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Broadband Update Video
- January 12, 2021 - 2020 Broadband Progress Report
- January 12, 2021 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Broadband Update Video
- January 7, 2021 Approved Plan of Action
- 2020 Approved Cell Tower Antenna Permits Map
- August 18, 2020 Broadband for Unserved Students (BUS) Grant Presentation
- August 18, 2020 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Agenda
- August 18, 2020 Commissioners of St. Mary's County Meeting Video
- July 27, 2020 Approved Plan of Action - Original
- County Cable Franchise(s)
Have a question or comment? Email Bob.Kelly@stmarysmd.com.