Council OK’s Use Agreement With Maryland Broadband

OCEAN CITY – A right-of-way use agreement will allow a nonprofit cooperative to move forward with a fiberoptic installation at 85th Street.

On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted 4-1, with Council Secretary Tony DeLuca opposed and Councilmembers Will Savage and Carol Proctor absent, to approve a right-of-way use agreement with Maryland Broadband, a nonprofit cooperative that provides middle-mile internet services to rural and underserved areas. City Manager Terry McGean said the agreement is required before any work can begin.

“They submitted a permit application to install fiber on 85th Street,” he explained. “Because of our utility policy that passed a few years ago, they do not have a right-of-way use agreement. Therefore, in order for them to install fiber on 85th Street, they need that right-of-way use agreement.”

McGean said the agreement to place utilities in the city right-of-way would be similar to the one created for Crown Castle, excluding any rights to install antennas.

“This purely allows them to put fiberoptic and pedestals in city streets,” he said. “Because they are a nonprofit, there is no cost involved other than the normal permit fees.”

Council President Matt James questioned if the pros and cons of such an agreement.

“Is it just one more company digging up our streets?” he asked.

McGean said that was a drawback. However, he argued the fiberoptic installation did have benefits.

“The pro is potentially additional internet services for our businesses on the island,” he said. “I think 85th Street, they don’t disclose who their members are, but there’s only one thing at 85th Street and that’s the power substation.”

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned what pedestals the provider would be installing. McGean said the pedestals are short green access terminals.

“There’s always a little bit of an above-ground equipment for fiberoptic,” he explained.

When asked if poles would be installed, McGean said it would not be part of the agreement.

“They specifically can’t hang new poles,” he said. “They can run on existing poles, but they can’t hang them.”

When asked for the staff’s recommendation, McGean said staff recommended the council approve the right-of-way use agreement. Councilman John Gehrig asked if the town was required to do it.

“I don’t think it’s something we have to do anyways,” McGean replied. “This is one other potential provider, one other ultimate way where there may be some competition in town. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They don’t run the last mile but potentially someone else can come in and take advantage of that. Personally, I thought the pros outweighed the cons.”

When asked about the right-of-way being used, McGean said the agreement essentially gave Maryland Broadband the right to install in any city right-of-way.

“Typically you have to have this, and then you come in for the permits for your specific installations,” he explained.

DeLuca questioned if such an installation was allowed in the R-1 residential district. McGean said it was.

“Yes, it’s underground fiberoptic,” he said.

Meehan also questioned if there would be disruptions to the street or any impacts on pavement.

“Are there any restrictions there as far as what they do?” he asked.

McGean said any restrictions would be covered under the town’s utility installation agreement.

“They have to get a permit to do it,” he said. “They have to go through all the same things all the other utilities need to do.”

With no further discussion, the council voted 4-1 to approve the right-of-way use agreement with Maryland Broadband.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.