County Hoping State Partnership Helps Secure Broadband Funding

SNOW HILL – County officials agreed last week to try to partner with the state to seek federal funding to expand access to broadband.

The Worcester County Commissioners voted unanimously to respond to a request for interest from the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband. The state aims to partner with local jurisdictions interested in getting federal funding to increase access to broadband.

“This is something we need to get moving as quickly as possible,” Commissioner Ted Elder said. “This stuff seems to drag on longer than (Route) 113 improvements.”

Brian Jones, the county’s IT manager, told the commissioners the state legislature had provided $2 million in operating funds to the Department of Housing and Community Development to support the Office of Rural Broadband’s efforts. The office wants to partner with local jurisdictions to increase access to broadband via federal funding.

Jones said the state had issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to find local partners.

“The RFI outlines the Governor’s Office’s intention to leverage the provided funds through direct financial and technical assistance as needed to obtain full project funding via federal funding sources,” Jones said. “Responding to the RFI does not obligate Worcester County to do any actual work.”

He said that although the county was still waiting on its broadband feasibility study — which is supposed to be complete by the end of the year — he’d been advised to proceed with the RFI.

“It was further recommended that we show the interest regardless of our position in the process,” he said. “I’ve been advised to provide as much information as possible now and fill in the further details as it becomes available.”

Elder made a motion to approve Jones’ plan to proceed with the RFI. Commissioner Josh Nordstrom seconded the motion, which was then approved unanimously.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the report because I get asked almost daily about our progress on this,” Nordstrom said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.