My office continues to partner with the administration concerning the need for rural broadband expansion in North County. Please note the following update provided by John Davis, Baltimore County’s Cable Administrator. My office is active and supporting every effort to get this important job done. Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in our lives.
In the Northern part of the County, the primary issue is most cases is not necessarily an economic issue, but also the ability to receive affordable and reliable high-speed internet. It is estimated there are 4000+ residents in this region that do not have proper access to Broadband service. Major carriers (i.e., Comcast and Verizon) do not have widespread point of presence in many areas of Northern Baltimore County. The County does have a franchise agreement with each of these carriers. There are build out, and density rules in the language currently that assist us. These guidelines are being revised with stricter language as renewal agreements are completed. This will help everyone.
§ OIT Cable Administrator has submitted approximately 20 franchise projects to Comcast requesting build out to 250+ homes in Northern Baltimore County.
• Carroll Run Project approved and moving forward.
• Corbett Road Project approved and moving forward.
• Carroll Mill Road Project approved and moving forward.
• Remaining projects are under review with Comcast.
o Meeting with Comcast in mid-January 2021 to determine feasibility for other projects.
§ OIT/BCG was AWARDED a PILOT grant ($68k) from the state for Comcast to build to 24 homes in Northern County along Grace and Blackrock Road.
• MOU Finalized / routed for all signatures.
• Project to start January / February 2021.
§ OIT and Comcast are partnering on a State Grant application (Approx. $3M) to build to 650+ homes in the northwest part of the County.
• State funding will be 50% – ($1.5M).
o Comcast and County will provide a combined match to state funding ($1.5M) (Specific amounts TBD).
• There were slight delays by the state to the original timeline
o Grant was released by the State on November 4, 2020
o Proposal due by Comcast / County on January 29, 2021
o Awards at the end of February 2021
o Build out over 2021-22
§ The County is working on a renewal of the Franchise Agreement with Comcast. Negotiations are ongoing.
• The agreement will have updated language that details Density requirements so that carriers build out network in rural areas.
• It has proposed language to protect the County from “in-kind” charges from the changes the FCC put forth in 2019 and 2020.
• New agreement is slated to be complete in 1st Q 2021.
§ The County is working on multi-year Capital plan for Rural Broadband build out in the Northern County that will help close serviceability issues over the next 3-4 years. This blueprint will incorporate all the plans as listed above as well as a few new ones.
• Density required build out for Comcast and Verizon via Franchise regulations.
• Responding to State and Federal Grants for Rural Broadband funding.
o A new COVID-Relief program has been proposed and includes funding for Rural Broadband.
• Working with other entities (wireless) to help fill in gaps in coverage.
Please understand the County is making every effort to assist the constituents of the County received affordable and reliable Broadband service.
I hope this helps to clear up the picture.
Thank you and Happy Holidays,