Editorial: Small businesses need fast internet, grants available

Small businesses face any number of challenges: Government regulation, health care, growing your business without sacrificing the quaility of your services and products. For some companies, particularly those in more rural areas like some spots of Carroll County, access to high-speed internet continues to be hurdle.

Carroll County Government is trying to help with that last problem by offering a new $200,000 grant that seeks to assist businesses in unserved or underserved portions of the county and Internet Service Providers to make the so-called “last mile” connections to the county’s fiber optic network and bring higher internet speeds to commercial and industrial users.


The Board of County Commissioners approved the grant last week and the Department of Economic Development is currently accepting applications. Interested parties can visit to learn more, to see if they qualify and to apply.

Carroll has made a significant investment in broadband internet over the years, to the tune of $19 million since 2007, building, operating and maintaining more than 110 miles of fiber optic lines throughout the county. Practically every government entity in the county is connected, along with the community college, the public library and emergency response services.

Being able to offer high-speed internet to local businesses is part of the county’s economic strategy to stimulate growth and attract business development to Carroll County. By growing the county’s economic base, it can increase the amount of funding available to the county to pay for services like schools, public safety and roads without adding additional burdens to residents.

With that in mind, the commissioners committed another $1 million to Carroll Broadband last year, which includes funding for this last mile connectivity grant that the board is hoping will have a significant impact.

High-speed internet can be a game-changer for businesses. At least one study noted that businesses may lose up to 38 hours worth of productivity per employee every year because of slow internet and IT downtime. That’s almost a full week’s worth of work from every employee.

That doesn’t even address potential sales lost in the world of e-commerce, customer service concerns or security issues that may come with have a slower connection. Let’s face it, in 2018, businesses can’t afford to not have high-speed internet service.

And yet, at least one commissioners expressed concern that there may not be enough takers. His primary concern seemed to be with getting the word out; after all, all the grant money in the world doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if it’s sitting around not being used. And with all the complaints that we’ve heard over the years about a lack of high-speed internet access in the county, there certainly appears to be a need out there.

We would strongly encourage small businesses struggling with internet connectivity and ISPs looking to expand services into underserved areas of the county to look into these new grant options by visiting and downloading an application or by calling Chief Information Officer Mark Ripper at 410-386-2053 to learn more.