Maryland Awards $92 Million In Grants For 35 Projects

Maryland state seal

Maryland officials have announced that the state is doling out $92 million in new broadband grants to expand access to affordable broadband. The latest round of funding was made possible via the Connect Maryland Network Infrastructure Grant Program, and will help expand broadband access to 14,500 unserved locations statewide.  

According to a state press release, this latest round of funds should help fund portions of 35 different projects scattered around the state. A full breakdown of award winners indicates that while Comcast and Verizon secured $14.4 million and $11 million respectively in new funding, smaller ISPs and cooperatives were, unlike in many states, well represented.

Quantum Telecommunications, a smaller local ISP founded in 1995, was slated to receive $15.3 million in funding to connect 1,693 locations to broadband. Choptank Electric Cooperative, first founded in 1938, was among the biggest award winners, receiving $16 million to deliver broadband to 1,693 locations currently lacking broadband access.

Choptank Electric Cooperative logo

Choptank Electric Cooperative has been particularly active on the Eastern shore of the state. The coop is currently in the middle of a ten-year plan to connect 54,000 of its members in nine Maryland counties to the coop’s 650 mile core fiber network. The project is anything but simple, and involves driving fiber into an electricity service territory 10,000 square miles in scope.

Additional grant winners included Bay Country Communications ($3.6 million), Talkie Communications ($6.4 million), and Easton Utilities ($3.1 million). Shentel Fiber, fresh off an announcement of its plans to deliver symmetrical 5 gigabit per second (Gbps) fiber, also received $9.4 million to expand fiber access in Frederick County.

“Internet access is essential for Marylanders to have a pathway to receive critical information, be involved with their communities and participate in the local economy,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore said of the latest funding. “These awards help ensure that the infrastructure exists to make Maryland more equitable.”

Choptank First Customers

The Connect Maryland Network Infrastructure Grant program was created in 2017, and is technically part of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. State officials say the program has already invested more than $270 million into broadband infrastructure and programs, expanding access to 52,000 previously unserved state residents.

“Broadband is the utility that will determine economic outcomes in much the same way water and sewer systems have been for the past 150 years,” Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jake Day said of the state’s latest awards. “Full participation in the digital economy is essential for resolving inequities for countless Marylanders and the Office of Statewide Broadband is committed to closing the digital divide.”

While the announcement is good news for broadband hungry Marylanders, especially those living in rural areas, in cities like Baltimore, where the market is dominated by Comcast, closing the massive digital divide there is more challenging, which has given rise to creative nonprofit initiatives such as Project Waves.