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July 27, 2021

Trone pushes broadband, infrastructure in Urbana visit

Credit: Frederick News-Post, Ryan Marshall

U.S. Rep. David Trone has been a strong supporter of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan and the boost it would provide for broadband access around the country.

On Friday, Trone (D-Dist. 6) got some help from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves as he visited facilities in Gaithersburg and Urbana.

The pair toured the Kite Pharma facility in Urbana, talking with company officials, business leaders and elected officials about the company’s work and how to help the economy recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trone praised the work that Frederick County did to draw Kite to the new Urbana complex. He said Kite has “really gone over the top” in planning for its future in the community.

Graves said that as a cancer survivor, he knows the importance of the work that Kite does.

The biotechnology company develops and makes cancer immunotherapy products that use a person’s own immune system capabilities to fight tumors.

The country, Graves said, needs every community to have access to broadband in order to move forward.

Paul Edwards, chairman of the Garrett County Board of Commissioners, said federal money will help connect his county’s most outlying area, serving almost 900 residents.

At a time when schools were working remotely, 40 percent of Garrett’s students are either unserved or underserved by broadband, Edwards said. It creates a technology gap that leads to an education gap that will take years to fix, he said.

Broadband is important for education but also because the nature of work is changing, said Marty Rosendale, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council.

The council has developed a business continuity task force to help provide advice and money to help companies.

Carmen Larsen, of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Montgomery County, said the small businesses she represents need broadband as well as the integration of broadband with cellular networks for workers who need mobile access.

If they don’t have access to technology, those businesses will fall further behind, she said.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) told Trone and Graves about some ways the county and businesses have collaborated, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

The county worked hard, Gardner said, to make sure business grants that were available during the pandemic reached minority businesses, and the data shows they’ve been able to do that.

Along with smaller counties like Garrett, mid-sized counties like Frederick have broadband access issues, she said, mentioning areas in the northern part of the county that are unserved or dramatically underserved.

Graves referenced one of the Biden campaign’s themes on infrastructure as he hailed the work by officials and businesses in Trone’s district’s.

“The clear thread and the reason these communities have seen success is the notion of collaboration and partnership between the business community and government of all different levels,” he said. “We are encouraging communities to work together instead of competing with one another. That’s the only way we are going to get our economy where it needs to be as we build back better in an equitable and inclusive way.”