Broadband Frustrations Continue For Worcester County

SNOW HILL – County officials again expressed their commitment to bringing broadband to Worcester County.

At their last meeting in January, the Worcester County Commissioners asked CTC Technology & Energy to return to them with a proposal to monitor the performance of Bloosurf, the county’s current broadband provider. A proposal from CTC had not yet been received.

“I don’t mean to be indignant, but we know what needs to be done…,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said. “There are a number of clocks that are underway. Where is CTC? Do they not want the business? We had two weeks. This is an issue that’s a priority for the commissioners.”

In the wake of CTC Technology’s presentation of a broadband feasibility study in late January, Director of Information Technology Brian Jones presented the commissioners with a variety of recommendations this week. The first of those, as discussed at the last meeting, is undertaking an effort to map Bloosurf’s actual coverage in the county. Though the company received federal funding to bring broadband to Worcester County, officials say it isn’t doing what it advertised.

“As noted during the last Worcester County Commissioners meeting and as Worcester County residents frequently report to us, there are ongoing challenges with Bloosurf’s coverage and substantial parts of the county where service is not available even though the federal broadband coverage maps suggests the entire county is served by Bloosurf,” Jones said.

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Jones said the county should issue a request for information (RFI) to identify partners willing to work with the county to fill broadband gaps in the event it was determined Bloosurf was not doing what it was required to.

“The goal of the RFI would be to identify entities willing to invest in the county to build communications networks and to apply for state and federal funding,” Jones said. “Of course this could be over multiple years if necessary.”

Jones said the county should also support Choptank Electric Cooperative’s efforts to move into broadband service.

“I feel that Choptank may be the most viable potential partner for our broadband efforts,” he said.

Bertino said he was under the impression the commissioners had asked CTC Technology’s Joanne Hovis at the last meeting to submit a proposal regarding testing Bloosurf’s coverage.

“Where is it?” he said.

Jones said he asked as recently as Tuesday morning for the proposal but had not yet received it. He added that Hovis had been busy finalizing the feasibility report presented last month. Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said he would check back in with CTC.

“We do want to be sure the proposal we get from CTC is a comprehensive proposal that will address the concerns that we have,” Shannahan said. “Honestly two weeks is a bit of a push up for a consulting firm like that to get a proposal back to us.”

Commissioner Jim Bunting questioned the feasibility of working with Choptank if Bloosurf was still in the area.

“My understanding of the way it works is Choptank could put the service in and provide that service,” Shannahan said. “What they can’t do is apply for federal funding to cover their cost for that because Bloosurf is the sole provider under the federal grant. If we want Bloosurf out of the picture, we need to prove to the feds they’re not providing the service they said they would provide …”

The commissioners voted to accept the recommendations from Jones and work toward getting a proposal from CTC Technology as soon as possible.

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.