Broadband Connections Celebrated In County’s South End

POCOMOKE – Two broadband companies celebrated their first connections in southern Worcester County this week.

Both Talkie Communications Inc. and Choptank Fiber connected their initial customers to high speed internet this week. County officials are excited to see broadband finally becoming accessible to those in rural areas.

“Instead of being on the bottom of the heap the rural areas are going to be on top as far as speed,” Commissioner Ted Elder said.

On Monday, Talkie Communications completed installing the fiber optic backbone on Dun Swamp Road and hooked up seven customers on this rural road to high-speed internet. A ribbon cutting was held at the home of customer Tom Wall. Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said Wall was thrilled to be able to get high speed internet.

“He runs a business out of his home,” Nordstrom said. “He was so pleased.”

On Tuesday, Choptank Fiber hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Holland family’s Chesapeake Bay Dairy to celebrate its first connections in Worcester County.

Laura Holland, owner of the ice cream operation, said in a news release she was thrilled with Choptank Fiber’s broadband service.

“Since they connected our service last Friday, the kids haven’t stopped using it,” she said.  “I’ve been telling our neighbors how fast everything is when you get online – there is no waiting or spinning—items come up instantly.”

Choptank Fiber will install gigabit-speed service for up to 35 families in this initial build-out.  Choptank staff are contacting eligible customers to finalize installation plans along Whitesburg Road, Dividing Creek Road, Ferry Branch Lane, McMaster Road and a small portion of Worcester Highway. The connections are an expansion of Choptank Fiber’s Somerset County buildout that has been under construction for the last three months, offering service to more than 60 families near Princess Anne.

Elder, who has advocated for rural broadband access since he was elected, is pleased to see progress finally being made.

“The fact that we have two different companies bringing broadband can do nothing but good for competition and prices,” he said.

He added that Talkie officials this week had shared plans to establish three crews — one in Pocomoke, one in Bishopville and one in Newark — in Worcester County. Elder stressed that broadband access would do nothing but good for the county, as it would increase property values and allow for online educational opportunities.

“It’s just all plusses,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get here.”

Nordstrom agreed and said he was excited to see rural residents finally get connected.

“No matter where you live you should have access to high speed internet,” he said.

The county’s funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is expected to help fund the county’s broadband expansion. The $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill recently approved could also help.

“The State of Maryland is expected to get approximately $6 billion for these projects,” said Weston Young, the county’s chief administrative officer, in an email. “We expect Worcester County to get an equitable share of this funding, however the details are limited at this time. With our focus on increasing broadband access, this funding should greatly assist us in bringing high speed fiber internet throughout the county.”

The estimated cost to run broadband through the county is $52 million.

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.