The Fibers of Change: ARC Broadband Grant to Accelerate Opportunity in Garrett County

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A $250,000 broadband grant awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and matched by $250,000 from the Board of County Commissioners of Garrett County, will quicken business growth and opportunity in Garrett County. The grant allows Garrett County to begin its first phase of a wireless broadband network, which along with other service providers is anticipated to bring access to 90% of homes and businesses over the next several years.

L-R: Julianna Albowicz; Sen. George Edwards; Comm. Gregan Crawford; Rep. John Delaney; Comm. James Raley; Earl Gohl (ARC); Al Feldstein (ARC); Mike Koch (GCED); Chris Uhl; Robin Summerfield.

Broadband is the backbone of a strong communications infrastructure,” noted Congressman Delaney. “It expands jobs and educational opportunities, and increases our competitiveness in a global marketplace."

A $250,000 broadband grant awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and matched by $250,000 from the Board of County Commissioners of Garrett County, will quicken business growth and opportunity in Garrett County. The grant allows Garrett County to begin its first phase of a wireless broadband network, which along with other service providers is anticipated to bring access to 90% of homes and businesses over the next several years. On Friday, July 26, 2013, Congressman John K. Delaney formally announced the award, and celebrated its value to Maryland’s Sixth District. The event was held at the Garrett Information Enterprise Center in McHenry, Maryland at 2:00 p.m.

“Broadband is the backbone of a strong communications infrastructure,” noted Congressman Delaney. “It expands jobs and educational opportunities, and increases our competitiveness in a global marketplace.” Last May, Congressman Delaney introduced the Partnership to Build America Act, a bill designed to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including communications and broadband.

Recognizing that broadband technology accelerates business growth and access to education and essential services, Garrett County conducted a study (August 2011-May 2012) to assess the availability of broadband services county-wide. The county determined that the absence of broadband availability impacts economic and educational achievement in less populated areas, and that approximately 3000 homes and small businesses did not have adequate broadband service availability.

The One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN), a federal/state initiative (commenced in 2010) deployed over 45 miles of fiber in the county, and is slated for completion this August. The OMBN connects schools, Garrett College and county/state government institutions, delivering Internet connection speeds of up to 1 Gbps.

Leveraging the One Maryland Broadband Network, Garrett County sought funding to support the first phase of a wireless network to offer broadband availability to the approximately 3000 un-served residences and businesses in the county. ARC, a federal-state partnership promoting sustainable economies and communities in rural Appalachia, awarded the county a $250,000 grant (matched by $250,000 in county funds) for the design, installation, network development and deployment. Phase one is planned to bring broadband access/availability to approximately 800 homes and businesses. Previous ARC funding has expanded the One Maryland fiber by 4.5 miles—and will serve additional community anchor institutions including industrial parks, municipalities and community facilities.

“Broadband will expand opportunities for families, workers and entrepreneurs in Garrett County. The network will improve everyday business operations, and place distance learning and telecommuting within easy reach,” said Garrett County Commissioner James M. Raley.

The county plans to support subsequent phases of the project through partnerships and regional collaborations, and by budgeting funds over the next three years. The county expects to bring broadband availability to the remaining 2200 residences and businesses by 2016.

Phase one design and engineering will begin in August 2013, and system installation is expected to begin in spring 2014. Qualified service providers will be invited to bid on the installation, operation, billing and system maintenance for the project, beginning fall 2014.

About Garrett County, Maryland:
Nestled in the mountains of Western Maryland, Garrett County features high elevations—and higher opportunities for prosperity. Lured by an abundance of resources and natural beauty, over 900 businesses elevate their workforce—and profit margins—in Garrett County. Boasting a solid workforce and affordable real estate, Garrett County blends modern conveniences with country living. Efficient by design, our technology and transportation infrastructure redefine rural life, offering convenience and proximity to key markets.

In Garrett County, we’re reinventing rural. Mindful of our agrarian roots, we support the organic growth of innovation. Visit: http://www.reinventingrural.com to learn more.

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