County Takes Control Of Broadband Cooperative

SNOW HILL – Lightning strikes on
five wireless towers this summer nearly put Lower Shore Broadband Cooperative
(LSBC) out of business, prompting a county takeover of the broadband provider.

“Following notification of the
LSBC’s operational failure, the county entered into an agreement with the LSBC
that gives us effective control of the LSBC and allows us the opportunity to
get the organization up and running again from an operational standpoint,” a
press release from Worcester
County reads.

The takeover, requested by the
LSBC board, should be temporary, according to the county. When the cooperative
is up and running again, the LSBC board will take back the reins. Estimates
call for LSBC to take control once again in one and a half to three years.

“We went ahead and stepped in
and are helping them out,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley, president of the
Worcester County Commissioners. “We didn’t have any choice as far as stepping
in and helping customers. There were people depending on it.”

Broadband service in Worcester County is key to economic development. LSBC began in 2005.

One
of the reasons organizations come to Wallops Island Spaceport, instead of
taking their business to Florida,
is the broadband access, Shockley said.

The county has established a management
team to reorganize operations at LSBC, including county staff such as Economic
Development Director Jerry Redden, Finance Officer Harold Higgins and others. A
team of technical advisors has also been established with financial, technical
and legal experts available.

The management team has brought
in the Maryland Small
Business Development
Center at Salisbury University
to create a business plan for LSBC.

The new management team is also
looking into switching from the WiMax technology now in use by LSBC to WiFi
technology, which is more reliable because it uses a repeater that changes
signals often to keep connected to open air space and prevent service
interruptions.

The
county used money set aside for broadband to repair the towers damaged by lightning.
LSBC had no insurance on the installations.

Service has been restored to all
customers.        

Officials from LSBC did not
return phone calls for comment this week.

 

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