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Governor Signs Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017

ANNAPOLIS, MD – On May 25, 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill 717/ House Bill 1169 – Connecting Rural Maryland Act of 2017. The legislation establishes the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless, and Cellular Service. The 22-member task force, which includes four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Delegates, must study and make recommendations regarding how Western Maryland counties; Southern Maryland counties; Eastern Shore counties; and Frederick, Carroll, and Harford counties can work together to obtain federal assistance to improve internet, broadband, wireless, and cellular services and accessibility in the affected counties. By November 30, 2017, the task force must report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.

 

Rural Maryland Council Executive Director, Charlotte Davis, has been named as the Chair of the task force. “The lower population density of rural areas presents unique challenges in the deployment of broadband.  The greater the geographical distances among customers, the larger the cost to providers looking to serve those customers. There is less of an incentive for companies to invest in broadband in a rural region than in an area where there is more demand, more customers with higher incomes, and less cost to the service provider,” said Charlotte Davis, “The task force will also examine the various types of cellular service available and assess which type of cellular service would be most effective for Rural Maryland communities.”

 

“Studies show that for every household that can access the internet, wages go up.  For a myriad of reasons, from the ability to seek better jobs to access education and skills necessary to compete in today’s workforce, broadband is incredibly important,” said Josh Hastings, Chair of the Rural Maryland Council. “Broadband expansion also immediately impacts the economy through important construction jobs.”

 

According to the Congressional Research Service, over 324,000 rural Maryland residents lack access to high-speed internet.  In a study published in July 2013, 3.2% of Maryland’s population lacks access to fixed broadband.  However, of that figure almost 20% (19.2%) of that population resides in our State’s rural areas.

 

For more information about the Task Force on Rural Internet, Broadband, Wireless and Cellular Service, visit the Rural Maryland Council at rural.maryland.gov.
Founded in 1994, the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) is an independent state agency that brings together rural leaders, government officials at all levels, and the representatives of the non-profit and for-profit sectors to develop public policy solutions to the challenges unique to rural Maryland. RMC operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner. It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts.

 

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