Better Broadband Better Lives

Bringing Fiber-Optics to Maryland’s Eastern Shore Requires Champions and Partners, Say Panelists

in Digital Inclusion/Education/Fiber/Health/Open Access by

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2017 – Champions, partnerships and flexibility are necessary to bring fiber-optic networks to less-populated communities, said participants involved in launching such a network in Kent County, Maryland.

Speaking at a Friday panel was hosted at the Schools Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition Annual Conference here, the executive director of the State Education Technology Directors Association outlined four recommendations that she called the “Broadband Imperative II”:

“Recommendation 1: Increase infrastructure to support student centered rationale.

“Recommendation 2: Design infrastructure to meet capacity targets.

“Recommendation 3: Ensure equity of access for all students outside of school.

“Recommendation 4: Leverage state resources to increase broadband access.”

The recommendations came from Executive Director Tracy Weeks, who said that its goal was to help give schools of any size decent broadband.

Others on the panel shared their experiences in developing an internationally-capable fiber presence in Kent County, on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Kent County originally had areas with only dial-up, said members of the panel moderated by Larry Irving, president and CEO of The Irving Group, and including Scott Boone, director of information technology for Kent County, Brett Hill, CEO of FTS Fiber, and Mark Wagner, CEO of ThinkBig Networks.

Boone put the responsibility of increasing the quality of broadband to government officials.

“You need champions in the government,” he said. “It’s an all-consuming position once you get into it.”

He said he knew from experience that government officials are always busy with their jobs as he often thinks about work in his daily life.

Hill said partnerships, such as the one FTS Fiber has with ThinkBig Networks, help make a complete package. He said FTS Fiber partnered with Kent County a year ago, and now they have almost 100 miles of cable in the ground in the county.

Hill said FTS Fiber’s initial goal was to complete the plan in two years, but it looks like the plan will be finished in Kent County in only 14 months.

Wagner complemented FTS Fiber and said Hill approached him with the Kent County idea. He said that Internet is becoming a utility because so many things in everyone’s daily life require it just to operate.

Wagner mentioned that cable even stopped growing in 2015 because people are cutting the cord and moving to online subscription services, such as Netflix and HBO GO.

“They don’t want 184 stations when they only watch two,” Wagner said. “They want to pick their products, and they can.”

The broadband Kent County will have will not have data caps, and it will only cost $400 to install, he said, adding that ThinkBig Networks already has 700 customers in the county.

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