September 12, 2019
FCC Awards Nearly $3 Million to Expand Broadband Access in Garrett
OAKLAND — Nearly $3 million from the Federal Communications Commission will be used over the next decade to expand broadband access to more than 2,450 homes and businesses in Garrett County, Rep. David Trone and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen recently announced.
“The $2.9 million in FCC funding was not awarded directly to the county,” explained Nataniel Watkins, the chief information officer at the Garrett County Department of Technology and Communications. “It was awarded to Declaration Networks Group. They run the NeuBeam internet service.”
Garrett County government began partnering with the Virginia-based company about four years ago to provide the service, which utilizes television white space to cover areas without broadband.
“They actually applied for this and were kind of awarded this area (Garrett County) about a year ago,” Watkins said about DNG, “and the FCC is just now releasing the funding.”
The money was awarded through the commission’s Connect America Fund Phase II program. Watkins indicated DNG submitted the winning bid to expand broadband service in specific locations.
“NeuBeam was the only one that went after the CAF II funding in the state of Maryland,” Watkins said. “So we were the only county that pursued, and were awarded those funds.”
A map showing the areas where NeuBeam will be utilizing its funding can be found at fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf2-auction903-results.
“You can kind of get a rough idea of where these areas are,” Watkins said.
He added DNG should have a better idea next month about exactly what’s going to been done and when.
Watkins and Cheryl DeBerry, agriculture and economic development specialist for Garrett County, attended a roundtable last week in Hagerstown, led by FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, about increasing rural broadband access. Hosted by Trone, Cardin and Van Hollen, the discussion included more than 40 federal, state, regional and local stakeholders.
“That went very well,” Watkins said.
Also in attendance were Bob Nichols, Declarations Network CEO; Emily Newman-Edwards, Grantsville councilwoman; and Kimi-Scott McGreevy, assistant vice president of marketing and development at Garrett Regional Medical Center.
“Every American deserves access to reliable, high-speed internet,” Trone said in a press release after the event.
He indicated the $2.9 million in FCC funding would allow thousands of homes and businesses in Garrett County to have a “fair chance” at participating in the economy.
“Expanding broadband will help close the many gaps — homework, healthcare and economic development — that exist in Western Maryland today,” Trone stated.
“Today, access to broadband is a critical public utility and a mandatory resource for the success of any community,” Cardin noted in the press release. “Its expansion throughout rural Maryland is long overdue.”
Van Hollen added, “Expanding access to broadband opens doors across our communities, connecting students, job seekers, healthcare providers, businesses, entrepreneurs and more with the internet.”