A month after Worcester County commissioners decided to earmark $7.1 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for broadband improvements, the county’s top administrator says all three providers will match some of the money they received for doing the job.
Chief Executive Weston Young presented a proposal to commissioners on how ARPA’s $7.1 million in funding could be allocated.
The three providers working in Worcester County are Bay Country Communications, Choptank Fiber and Talkie Communications.
The county is offering to give $1 million in ARPA funding to Bay Country so they can expand service from Newark to Girdletree. Bay Country agreed to a 15% match, increasing the total to cover 31.8 miles at $37,000 per mile, to $1,176,600.
Choptank has accepted 50% consideration of the $2.5 million the county plans to give the company so it can provide service west of Route 12 and north of the Pocomoke River. The cost to cover about 81 miles, according to the proposal, is $61,000 per mile.
The remaining $3.5 million of ARPA funds will go to Talkie Communications, which has offered a 42% match. Under the proposal, Talkie will provide service along Route 12 from Snow Hill to the Virginia Line, as well as service between Bishopville and Whaleyville.
The cost per mile for Talkie to travel 83 miles is $73,751.
Whether companies consider burying the lines or keeping them above ground depends on what kind of infrastructure, if any, is in place.
Choptank, for example, will depend on whether the power lines they run are above ground or below ground, according to Young.
He also said it would take 18 months for most of the work to be completed and that the county has until 2026 to spend the ARPA money.
“All of this will be formalized in writing,” Young said, adding that it will need to be sent to the US Treasury as they are providing the funds.
Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said he appreciates that the three providers plan to bring Internet to the entire county.
“I love the plan…it was very well thought out,” he said. “What you have found here is fantastic.”
Young told commissioners he’s confident providers will be able to grow organically from the locations they expand to, as it will be easier to move lines from those areas to uncovered ones.
Commissioner Ted Elder, who represents an area of the county that lacks good, reliable internet, thanked everyone involved. He also encouraged businesses to use their profits to expand service even further and, within a reasonable time frame, cover everyone in the county.
“It’s been a while to come,” Elder said.