Grant Funding Will Expand Service to More Than 12,000 Households In 18 Counties
Governor Larry Hogan today announced awards to expand broadband internet access to more than 12,000 households in 18 counties. Administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office of Statewide Broadband (OSB), $29,472,131 in grant funding will support network infrastructure projects by local internet service providers that will provide connectivity to unserved or underserved communities in Maryland.
These awards are the first administered by the OSB. Formerly the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband, the OSB was established within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development earlier this year when Governor Hogan signed into law Senate Bill 66 from the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
“These awards continue our ongoing efforts to make broadband access available and affordable for all Marylanders,” said Governor Hogan. “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased focus on ensuring internet connectivity and building infrastructure that helps bridge the current digital divide.”
The legislation also established the Digital Inclusion Fund and the Digital Connectivity Fund as new programs to provide grants to local governments and nonprofits. The grants will support initiatives to increase access to high-speed internet and assist in developing affordable broadband internet infrastructure with the stated goal of 98% universal broadband access by the end of 2025.
“Lack of access to broadband must be addressed, regardless of the reason,” said Kenrick Gordon, director of the OSB. “The Office of Statewide Broadband will partner with local governments and internet service providers to ensure connectivity in communities that lack access and, in areas with existing service, increase affordability for low-income residents.”
MACo adopted “Build out Broadband” among its top legislative initiatives for 2021 and supported multiple successful initiatives. Counties continue to develop approaches to this vexing issue, with federal funds through the State likely to complement local and private-sector initiatives.
As Maryland launches its historic investment to boost broadband infrastructure and connectivity, county governments will be integral partners for ensuring access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet – an essential component of a county’s economic development and the socio-economic advancement of its residents.