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Carroll commissioner ‘won’t rest’ until entire county has internet; board approves broadband feasibility study

Carroll County took a step toward spreading internet access to rural areas as the Board of County Commissioners approved a broadband feasibility study Thursday.

Carroll, along with six other Maryland counties, sought a contractor to conduct a study that would help counties assess their broadband needs and obtain grant funding for broadband projects, according to Mark Ripper, director of technology services. He said the counties, with Montgomery leading the charge, chose to band together rather than do the work in piecemeal fashion.

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The $60,000 study will be conducted by CTC Technology & Energy, which is based in Kensington, according to a county document.

The study will assess the gaps in the county’s broadband service, develop designs and estimate costs to bridge those gaps, prepare documentation to use for potential funding, identify Carroll’s assets and future demand, evaluate funding options, and more.

“The state of Maryland’s already started its grant programs. Unfortunately, we don’t have any projects that are ready to go, and one of the things this study will do is it will let us know where there are some really under-served and un-served areas in the county, that as these grants move forward we can say, ‘OK, yeah we know we’ve got a potential for a particular project in this area of the county,’" Ripper said.

Ripper estimates he will be before the commissioners in late April or early May with the study’s findings.

The commissioners praised the project as a step in the right direction and approved it unanimously.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, has long advocated for broadband expansion into rural areas and has made known that his district in particular suffers from lack of internet service.

Wantz was absent Thursday due to illness, but later offered his comments to the Times.

“This is absolutely a very good decision,” Wantz said via text on Monday. “This is a critical first step in identifying the specific areas that are without service, although I’m certain I already know where those areas are.”

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Wantz said the approval came at a good time, as he recently had a meeting with the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband to familiarize himself on the county’s ability to obtain future grants for broadband.

“I’m excited about what we heard as the grant process will begin in September,” Wantz wrote. “I intend on ensuring we do all we can to obtain needed assistance and won’t rest until everyone has access to internet. It remains unacceptable to me that in 2020 there are many who still are in the dark.”

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