(Aug. 27, 2021) Without broadband access, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) estimates that a home loses 6 percent of its value compared to a similar home with access.
In a recent Maryland Realtors informal HotSheet poll, 33 percent of Realtors said the broadband issue comes up daily, 21 percent said it comes up weekly, and 25 percent reported that it comes up occasionally.
This year, the Maryland General Assembly established the Office of Statewide Broadband in the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the law requires that the Office develop, by July 1, 2022, a statewide plan to ensure that all state residents can connect to reliable broadband Internet by Dec. 31, 2026.
In addition, Gov. Larry Hogan allocated $300 million of CARES Act funding to the Office of Statewide Broadband.
Two grant programs available to improve broadband access are:
• The Broadband Expansion program helps stretch existing broadband infrastructure into communities that lack it. The municipality applies for the grant in collaboration with an internet service provider. The grant covers half of the project cost, up to $200,000. When the program began in 2019 it received seven applications, in 2021 it had 62.
• The Broadband Network Infrastructure grant helps build broadband infrastructure where it does not exist and is aimed at larger projects impacting up to 1,500 people. The service provider makes the application with buy-in from the municipality, and the grant will provide $1-$3 million toward a $2-$6 million project. That program has grown from three applicants in 2020 to 15 this year.
In northern Worcester County, access to broadband is fairly accessible in the higher population areas, but as you move west toward Wicomico County, and south toward Snow Hill and Pocomoke, availability becomes more spotty.
Two companies working to expand broadband in these rural areas within Worcester County are Talkie Communications Inc and Choptank Fiber.
The Worcester County commissioners and Talkie Communications, Inc. kicked off the countywide fiber-optic network project, which in total is a roughly $52 million project, in the south end of the county on June 10.
Talkie, the county’s broadband vendor, has begun phase one of the installation process on Dun Swamp Road in Pocomoke. This will be followed by installations in the Sheephouse Road and Stockton Road areas.
Phase one of the project should be active this October, and those residing in this service area may sign up for service or request additional information by visiting www.talkiefiber.com.
Customers are not required to sign a contract and may discontinue service at any time.
– Lauren Bunting is a licensed Associate Broker with Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City.