Building rural ramps onto information superhighway in Carroll County [Eagle Archives]

Carroll County not up to speed on the Internet

In Carroll County, the underpinning of the local economy has always been agriculture and access to supplies and markets. The politics and economics involved with the maintenance of the roads, bringing the railroad to Carroll County and providing access to employment have also played prominent roles in the growth of Carroll County.

When Benjamin F. Shriver founded the first canning company in Carroll in 1869, he used a new transportation approach — having the railroads to move the finished products, thereby bypassing the county's woefully inadequate roads network.

Today, a new "technology highway" offers Carroll a similar alternative.

However, decades after the information age began to revolutionize modern-day commerce, rural Carroll County and the business of agriculture remains the most underserved consumers of Internet services.

In 2005, then-Hampstead Mayor Haven Shoemaker said "… I'm willing to investigate any cost effective private-public technology initiative that will stimulate economic development and quality of life for our citizens."

Westminster Councilman Tony Chiavacci recently said that the Westminster technology initiative, Ting, "… is going to be as important in the future as electricity and roads are to us today… And will attract business and individuals, high paying jobs, opportunities, increasing the average income, and pushing property values up in our area. As well as allowing people to work where they live, versus commuting out of the area every day."

But today, as far as agriculture is concerned, MidAtlantic Farm Credit loan officer Bill Schrodel observed, "Most businesses have adopted practices that require access to high speed wireless Internet, and the local agricultural community is no exception. Unfortunately, many farming operations do not have access to DSL, and FIOS is not an option. This leaves them with only dial-up or hot spot connectivity as options — neither of which have anywhere near the processing speed needed these days."

Denise Beaver, the deputy director of the Carroll County Department of Economic Development, said, "… agricultural enterprises and Carroll businesses depend on reliable telecommunications for everyday business needs…"

Mike McMullin, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce noted, "Agribusiness is the number one economic engine in Carroll County. Local farms of Carroll need to be on the cutting edge of technology, Internet access, and communication. Increasing high speed Internet access for all local ag businesses is critical for local economic growth."

One possible upgrade solution that has recently came across the computer screen in rural Carroll County is Freedom Broadband. In February of 2015, local businesswoman Theresa Bethune purchased Freedom Wireless Broadband and renamed the company "Freedom Broadband."

Bethune said, "As a customer in an underserved part of Carroll County, ironically just 6 miles from Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester, I realized how many areas of Carroll and the surrounding areas were left with few, if any viable broadband choices…"

According to Bethune, "Freedom Broadband began as Freedom Wireless Broadband in January of 2007 to provide cost effective Internet service to under-served areas in Carroll County. The company started with a location in Eldersburg and a communications tower in Hampstead, and grew by leveraging grain elevators, silos and homes to reach locations not served by wired providers available at that time...

"We have expanded capacity 400% at the Manchester water tower and Lippy Brothers towers, and added new locations to serve parts of Mayberry and the Jasontown/Uniontown Road areas," she said. "And we have plans to grow our service areas in Taneytown and Mt. Airy/Woodbine…"

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