Harford County is seeking a partnership with an internet service provider (ISP) to expand broadband to rural areas, reported The Baltimore Sun. Previously, the county partnered with Armstrong Utilities, a Pennsylvania-based company that supplies much of the cable TV services to northern Harford; however, in February, Armstrong withdrew from the agreement.
Cindy Mumby, Harford’s Director of Governmental and Community Relations, said, “We did not have any prior indication. It was a long process of working through the application, and we did not know until we knew.”
Now, County Executive Barry Glassman’s administration is looking for a partner that will apply for grants to fund the project under the UDSA ReConnect Program, reported the Sun. According to Mumby, the USDA grant, for which the county cannot independently apply, is financially critical to getting broadband to the northern part of the county, which is rural.
Glassman added that the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated the lack of access in northern Harford, burdening residents. “Internet access is so important to our daily lives today — for doing our jobs, for running our businesses, for allowing our kids to complete their school assignments, and for staying connected to the outside world,” Glassman said.
According to Mumby, there are an estimated 2,500 underserved residents. The original plan, created by Armstrong, would have covered 1,400 eligible residents and businesses at the cost of $12 million over five years. The project would have required more than one grant application, and construction was projected to take several years.
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