Broadstripe Cuts Ribbon on Broadband Access into South County

Last Friday, County Executive Laura Neuman came to South County to cut the ribbon on the new Broadstripe broadband hub, located at Southern High School in Harwood. The hub is the starting point for broadband cable access to about 1,000 homes in South County that are not served by either Verizon or Comcast.

County Executive Laura Neuman and Broadstripe Cable's John TK cut the ribbon with Southern High students.

County Executive Neuman and Broadstripe’s John Bjorn cut the ribbon with Southern students (w/Jerry Walker, left)

In August, we covered Broadstripe’s entry into the South County market in detail. (Please check out that story for more background and a service area map.)

Overview

Traditionally, rural markets have been underserved by high speed internet connectivity options. That changed with the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN), a 2011 state initiative that tapped into $115 million in federal grant monies (stimulus spending) to bring the service to rural areas in Maryland, including in Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

At the heart of the ICBN program is bringing community institutions online, like schools, medical centers and libraries. Typically, these institutions are in communities under-served by companies because of the lack of substantive population as monthly service subscribers. In other words, traditional telephone and cable companies wouldn’t do it on their own because there wasn’t enough business to sustain the investment needed to lay the cable.

So a government investment was made to lay the cable. Then private businesses—like Broadstripe—can come in to add residential customers and service to the main trunk or cable installed by the ICBN. There are a lot of moving parts, with public right-of-way access, technology standards and an interplay between government and private sector businesses.

Dis-connectivity: What it Means for Today’s Students

Alex Griner, 17, is a senior at Southern High. He lives in Fairhaven and said that his family has been trying to get high-speed cable access for the past seven years — to no avail.

They currently use a Hughesnet satellite for their dial-up access. He said that they can see the homes of people who are serviced by Broadband, but in his part of the neighborhood, the cable companies won’t drop the line to connect the handful of homes that remain in the internet wilderness.

Tamia Harrison, Alex Griner and Joe Grover look forward to wider broadband access in South County.

Tamia Harrison, Alex Griner and Joe Grover look forward to wider broadband access in South County.

“We tried to do a petition, we went door to door getting signatures,” Griner said.

He said that his mother works from home doing data management.

“She probably spends two hours a day waiting for the internet. That’s time she could save if we had broadband,” Griner said.

Tamia Harrison is also a Southern student. She said that she lives on a farm with a mile-long driveway, meaning cable companies wouldn’t lay the cable for years because of the expense.

The students said that there is sometimes an expectation that everyone has high-speed internet access, when it simply isn’t the case—especially in rural areas. When homework assignments have to be turned in on education portals like Edmodo, they have to go to a friends or the library to get it done.

Principal Marc Procaccini said that he and his teachers are excited to eliminate the excuse, “I could not get my homework done because my dial-up modem wouldn’t connect.”

Southern Principal Marc Procaccini's name for the new broadband hub

Southern Principal Marc Procaccini’s name for the new broadband hub at Southern High School in Harwood.

It isn’t all about the educational aspects though. Joe Grover is a senior at Southern and said he’s excited to be able to play X-Box with his friends who can’t currently play across the internet because of their slow connections.

It’s Here!

In her remarks at the ribbon-cutting, County Executive Laura Neuman said that she had been aware of this issue and the ICBN when she was at the Economic Development Corporation of Howard County. She knew it was helping connect rural residents in both Howard and Anne Arundel. She said that it isn’t a given that everyone has access to the latest technologies.

“Anyone who is on dial-up in this day and age—we need to make sure we are making resources available,” she said.

A number of people were recognized at the event, including Councilman Jerry Walker, State Sen. Ed Reilly, Anne Arundel County’s cable television administrator John Lyons, Anne Arundel County director of information technology Rick Durkee, Southern Maryland Cable Company’s Wender Garner, and the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works, who handled the rights of way and public space access.

County Executive Laura Neuman with South County business leaders.

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman with South County business leaders at the event.

Ray Greenstreet of Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian and the South County Chamber of Commerce said that bringing broadband to South County is important for businesses too.

“It doesn’t connect everyone, but it is a huge step,” he said.

While the system won’t connect everyone right now, it will connect about 1,000 homes and businesses to start. If your home is not directly off the main trunk line, you may still be in for a bit of a wait.

But that isn’t to say that broadband can’t or won’t be coming to you at some point in the future. Once Broadstripe has connected the 1,000 homes on the approved map (which you can find here), they may get the green light to lay more cable and connect homes that are currently outside their approved service area.

Because this is a public-private partnership, they simply have to ensure they aren’t infringing on the customer territory of the other businesses or vendors in the area.

If you are outside of the service area, keep calling Broadstripe Cable and your county government representatives—you’re unbelievably close to seeing it happen.

 

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. Mitchelle@SouthRiverSource.com or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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