Broadband Coming To Areas In Frederick County Where It’s Currently Not Available

The areas are located in the northern, southern and eastern sections of the county.

Areas in Frederick County not served by broadband  (Map from Frederick County Government)

Frederick, Md (KM) Broadband service will be expanding in Frederick County to areas where access is not currently  available. The County is partnering with Shentel Corporation, in a multi-year strategy to provide internet service  to the northern, eastern and southern areas of Frederick County.

Dave Maginnis, Chief Information Officer for Frederick County, says a 2020 Rural Broadband Study commissioned by County Government identified areas where broadband service is not available. “We identified three primary areas within the county which accounted for a good number of homes that were unserved, a little over 3,000 homes,” he says.

The problem with extending service to areas such as these, Maginnis says, is that it may not be very profitable for internet services providers to invest the money in infrastructure for so few potential customers. “The areas are so sparsely populated that it’s difficult for any company to regain the financial investment they have to make to get the service out to those areas,”: he says.

This project is being funded with a $10-million grant from the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband. Maginnis says Shentel is providing   $8-million dollars, and the county will chip in $200,000. He says partnerships are the only way to extend internet service to remote areas. “It requires the partnership of the county government, and in some cases underwritten by the federal government–which is what is happening here–to the make the investments in the infrastructure,” says Maginnis. He says funding for the grants came from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Shentel was awarded a franchise to provide cable TV service in the city of Frederick in competition with COMCAST.

Maginnis says Shentel will build the infrastructure. “This is one of these opportunities for us to really capitalize on partnerships and develop partnerships with private industries to help deliver these services to the citizens,” he says.  Frederick County will not be a broadband provider.

He says this project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

Having broadband service with access to the internet is a necessary. Maginnis says this was especially true during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed and classes were taught on line, and many employees had to work from home. “It’s almost impossible without broadband internet access to provide the level of service necessary for classes to occur and meetings to occur for parents at the same time in a home setting,” he says.

He says much of the installation work will be done by Shentel with little involvement by the county. “Most of these companies who get involved in these things are fully self contained. They really don’t need much help from us,” says Maginnis. “If they need some help with right-of-ways or something like that, we can assist in those areas.”

By Kevin McManus