Garrett County’s current broadband coverage is estimated at 75%, Commissioner Paul Edwards noted during a county government update report last week.
“That means,” he stressed, “that about 75% of the people who live in Garrett County have access. That does not mean that 75% of the people are actually hooked on.”
Not counting Verizon, he said, the county works collaboratively with four main internet providers — Comcast, QCOL, NeuBeam and Shentel — through public/private partnerships.
Edwards said the county has worked with Comcast “a lot” over the last three or four years.
“Their footprint in Garrett County has grown exponentially because of our partnership with them,” the commissioner said.
He reported the company recently completed broadband expansion in three areas — Avilton-Lonaconing, Sunset Ridge and Bumble Bee Road. It’s currently working in nine additional areas, including Bittinger near Md. 495; the Garrett County Airport; Fox Town, Foy, Accident Friendsville, Mosser and Oakland Sang Run roads; and Md. 42 in Friendsville. The McHenry Business Park will also obtain service.
“I’m not saying those people who live there will have internet tomorrow,” Edwards said. “It takes a long time to get this stuff done.”
QCOL recently completed nine miles of new fiber in “highly” rural areas, he reported. In addition, the company has increased its upload/download speed to its service areas.
“We’ve done a lot with NeuBeam,” Edwards said. “They’re a partner of ours.”
The company currently has 870 new customers and is planning to expand to underserved areas to provide internet to 2,000 more customers over the next several years, he reported.
“So NeuBeam’s footprint is really growing,” Edwards said.
In addition, he reported, Shentel is providing faster broadband service and offering a no-data-cap add-on option for its customers.
As a result of the various companies’ work, he indicated, more people will have access to internet and more people will have access to better internet in the next couple of years.
“A lot of that has to do with our IT Department and Roads Department,” Edwards said.
The county, he explained, has dug trenches and installed conduit in its rights of way, making it more financially feasible for companies to lay fiber in local areas.
“Anyone can put their fiber in our conduit,” Edwards said. “We’re taking that cost off. Otherwise, I’m not sure a lot of these people would ever install it.”
The commissioner also reported that Maryland Pilot Rural Broadband Expansion grants are available. The county can work with private providers to obtain that funding.
“We have three projects that are going to be submitted,” Edwards said.
One is with NeuBeam. One is with QCOL, and the other is with Procom.
“We are actively submitting those,” the commissioner said. “We are very confident that we’ll get at least one. We’re hoping to get two. The likelihood of getting all three is pretty slim.”