Shore Broadband Effort Year Away From Completion

BERLIN – By next December, Worcester County will be entirely wired for broadband Internet service, with lines laid along Routes 113 and 50 out to the community college.

The shore-wide project will get another $3.6 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2008, to join the $4.2 million in state funding awarded for 2008.

“We’re going to start down in Pocomoke, up 113, past Snow Hill, past Berlin up into Delaware and down on 50 and hook into Wor-Wic,” said County Commissioner Vigil Shockley, chair of the Rural Broadband Coordination Board. “You’ll have a cable with capacity we’ve never had before.”

Worcester County schools may hook into the line as it is laid, Shockley said, saving time and money.

The federal money, part of an omnibus funding package passed by the U. S. Congress earlier this month, will fund the rest of the shore network. Lines have already been installed across the Chesapeake Bay.

“Bringing broadband to the Eastern Shore means economic development, job growth, and innovation whether you are a small business, a school, a major employer or a NASA center,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md).

“It will help to pave the way for high-tech business and employment opportunities for residents of the Eastern Shore,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md).

Shockley praised Mikulski’s effort, saying, “I can’t say enough about Barbara Mikulski. She’s been an absolute trooper on this one. Her effort has been phenomenal on this.”

The first phase of the project got rolling in 2006 with $2 million in federal funds, combined with state and private money. The line from Wallops Island to Salisbury University was recently completed. Despite the strong start, the project received none of the requested $4 million in federal funds in 2007.

The finished rural broadband network will cover the entire Eastern

Shore and southern Maryland, connecting residents, schools, medical facilities, and businesses to high-speed Internet access.

“Forty years ago, interstate highways were crucial for economic growth in our rural areas, now it’s the information superhighway. The Eastern Shore is changing – our space, high tech, health care and higher education facilities need broadband – so do our poultry producers, construction companies, and our small businesses,” Mikulski said.