Nearly 200 stakeholders discuss internet access equity
ANNAPOLIS — When nearly 200 business leaders, economic development professionals and state and local government officials came together to discuss bringing affordable, high-speed internet service to rural Maryland, the “why” was not up for debate. However, when it came to “how” the options were numerous and the financing was challenging to say the least.
Hosted by event partners the Rural Maryland Council and USDA Rural Development, the program titled the Regional Rural Broadband Forum was presented recently in Annapolis. The forum unofficially launched the work of a special task force enacted by Maryland’s General Assembly, which was signed into law on May 25.
Charlotte Davis, executive director, Rural Maryland Council, chairs the task force, named the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless and Cellular Service. Over the next several months, Davis and her colleagues will research redundancies and gaps in service and funding options needed to bring digital equity to rural Maryland. By November the task force will report its findings and recommendations to Gov. Larry Hogan.
The program included six sessions providing attendees with information ranging from the different broadband technologies commonly used in rural communities to best practices used in New York’s “Broadband for All” initiative.
The day’s discussions often came back to how to create sustainable high-speed broadband access in areas with low population density.
“Admittedly for a business whose mission is to turn a profit providing high speed internet in rural areas is a recipe for market failure,” said Charlotte Davis, executive director, Rural Maryland Council. “Clearly the solution will be providing incentives and grants to make the project more doable and attractive.”
The tone of the forum remained optimistic despite the acknowledgement that there will be no easy solutions.
“We cannot have an equal society without equal access to broadband,” said RMC chair Josh Hastings.
Chiming in on that note was Maryland State Senator Adelaide “Addy” C. Eckardt. “It is all about getting connected and for us (in rural areas) it is the art of the possible. It all works better when we work together,” she said.
For more information on the Regional Rural Broadband Forum, call 410-841-5774 or visit rural.maryland.gov.
Attendees at a group session at the recent Regional Rural Broadband Forum, hosted by event partners the Rural Maryland Council and USDA Rural Development. The forum included six sessions providing attendees with information ranging from the different broadband technologies commonly used in rural communities to best practices used in New York’s “Broadband for All” initiative.