July 7, 2008 By News Report
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley recently announced the approval of a wetlands license for the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, a public/private partnership that promotes economic development through universal, open access to broadband services via fiber-optic networks serving rural Maryland. The wetlands license was approved at the Board of Public Works by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, and will help in bringing broadband network capability to Maryland's Eastern Shore.
"By working together with partners in the private sector, we are able to complete one of the largest economic development projects in our state," said O'Malley. "Broadband access will help strengthen our economy and improve the lives of all Marylanders on the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland."
Last summer, O'Malley joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. E.J. Pipkin in celebration of the broadband project, and announced an advance of $2 million to continue installation of the Rural Broadband Initiative from Salisbury to the Bay Bridge, to bring fiber-optic lines to the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.
"Witnessing this project come to fruition is very exciting and promising for the Eastern Shore of Maryland," said Worcester County President Virgil Shockley. "This is a major step toward improving the quality of life for our residents and we are thankful for the support of the state and Sen. Mikulski."
The approval of the wetlands license will enable the Cooperative to install 16,508 feet of fiber cable over and under state tidal wetlands from Wallops Island, Virginia, to the Bay Bridge in Queen Anne's county. The Board of Public Works today also approved waiving the licensing fees to move the project forward.
The Rural Broadband Communication bill (SB 753) was signed in May 2006 to bring access to fiber-optic lines to the nine counties on the Eastern Shore and the three counties in Southern Maryland. An Internet point of presence (POP) will be located in each county along this new fiber line, focusing on connecting business and industrial parks.
The need for broadband on the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland was a key finding in the Maryland Technology Development Corporation's 2003 report. Despite the fact that Maryland ranks above most states in both the deployment and usage of information and communication technologies, the report found that households and businesses in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore lag behind other areas in their rate of access and usage of high-speed communications.