Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Editorial: Broadband an essential part of doing business

When you think about essential infrastructure, you probably think of things like water, electricity and roads. Add broadband internet to that list.

Just two decades ago, access to the internet, even at impractically slow speeds by 2017 standards, would have been considered a luxury for most homes and many companies. Now, it’s hard to imagine conducting business day-to-day without a high-speed broadband internet connection.


As Carroll County continues to figure out what its future will look like, there are two things that seem clear as day to us:

  1. Building the economic base is the most feasible and palatable way to grow Carroll County; and
  2. Demand for fast internet isn’t going away and will only get greater, especially for business.

Later this week, the Board of County Commissioners is going to discuss and possibly make a decision on how the $1 million it allocated in the fiscal year 2018 budget for expansion of the county’s fiber network should be spent. The commissioners spent a portion of the Nov. 2 meeting discussing the possibilities, and running fiber to business parks in the Freedom area and working with municipalities to cost-effectively lay fiber conduit during major construction projects — like the Hampstead Streetscape — both sound like winners.


Freedom, which includes Eldersburg and its surroundings, is one of the county’s designated growth areas, along with the eight municipalities. It already has some critical infrastructure — public water and relatively easy access to major routes like I-70, I-795 and the Baltimore Beltway — in place that make it a more attractive location than more remote areas of Carroll for business. In order for Carroll to compete to be home for certain businesses, it will need more. Access to fiber internet could help seal the deal.

Not all broadband internet is created equal. Fiber has faster upload and download speeds than what Comcast (cable) and Verizon (DSL) currently offer in most of Carroll County. In the past, neither company has shown a desire to invest in infrastructure here. That’s part of what drove the City of Westminster to start its own fiber network a few years back.

Likewise, it seems wise to add fiber infrastructure to municipal growth areas and doing so on the cheap by coordinating with streetscape projects. Mark Ripper, chief information officer for the county’s technology services, said it costs about $1.50 per foot if the ground is already open, compared to $10 per foot to do it separate of the streetscape.

Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, is correct when he said that the fiber needs to be put in place as a marketing tool, rather than asking current business owners whether they need it. While what currently exists might meet current needs, the long view is to instead provide what will meet future needs — not just for existing businesses but new ones where access to fiber internet might make the difference between a company picking Carroll or nearby Howard or Baltimore counties, or Pennsylvania to set up shop.

While we believe the county needs to continue growing in a variety of ways, the fact is that commercial and industrial growth pays the bills faster and more efficiently than residential growth, allowing the county to pay for rising costs of existing infrastructure such as schools, roads and public safety without putting as much additional burden on those services, while also potentially paying for new services to residents.

Bringing more employers to Carroll County, especially more high-tech companies that pay well, will also improve quality of life issues, hopefully reducing commutes for many residents who can then choose to work where they live rather than traveling to Baltimore or Washington.

Drawing them here means Carroll must be able to offer necessary services to successfully do business. These days and into the future, access to high-speed, broadband internet must be treated as essential.