Worcester County received a $3.6 million grant that was part of a $29.47 million state fund for expanding broadband access in 18 Maryland counties. A statement from the governor’s office said this expansion will benefit more than 12,000 households. Talkie Communications will receive the money, which began construction in the Dun Swamp area (pictured) near Pocomoke City last month.

Talkie Communications to receive state funding for ‘Connect Worcester County’

Worcester County will get more than it asked for when it receives $3.6 million from the state to help provide the county’s rural residents with broadband internet service.

County officials had asked for $3 million from the state, so the extra $600,000 was a pleasant surprise, officials said.

The grant was part of $29.47 million in awards to expand broadband access in 18 counties in the state, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday. A statement from the governor’s office said this expansion will benefit more than 12,000 households.

The money going to the county, which was the maximum amount awarded, is being put towards “Connect Worcester County,” a $10.4 million project to connect 2,319 households to high-speed broadband internet. Talkie Communications is in charge of the project.

“These awards continue our ongoing efforts to make broadband access available and affordable for all Marylanders,” Hogan said in the press release. “As we emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, there is an increased focus on ensuring internet connectivity and building infrastructure that helps bridge the current digital divide.”

The award money was administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office of Statewide Broadband.

Talkie co-CEO Andre DeMattia said that combined with money awarded through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), the company has secured about $6.6 million in grant funding.

“The grants will be used for the RDOF areas,” DeMattia said. “The entire RDOF areas are about one-third of the entire (unserved) areas of the county per the … study.”

“Talkie is working with the county to win the additional funds to continue the entire $52 million dollar build. We are chipping away at the cost to bring fiber to everyone in the county.”

In June, Talkie broke ground on underground fiber cable construction in the Dun Swamp area near Pocomoke City on an new fiber cable network that aims to connect rural unserved and underserved residents in the county to high-speed internet.

“Talkie plans on having these … RDOF areas completed in the next three years,” DeMattia said. “We hope to start the northern side of the county in the next six weeks using contractors. As the grants or (American Rescue Plan Act) funds start to come, we will add more crews and we plan on having three crews working full time.”

“(Dun Swamp) is doing well. We hope to have our first customer turned on in October.”

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on July 23, 2021.

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