Bringing high speed internet and cable to residents of rural Talbot County is long overdue. Not only would this benefit all residents of the County who so far have been deprived of this basic necessity it would allow school children to have access to the tools that will make them contributing citizens in the future, enhance property values and stimulate economic development on the Eastern Shore.
It can not be emphasized enough how important affordable high speed broadband is to the education of the Counties student population as education is, as we all know, the largest component of our local communities budget and depriving our young people of this valuable tool will preclude them from reaching their full potential in our ever more technological world.
Recently the County Council had a work session to explore potential avenues to bring high speed internet and cable to rural areas in the County. They listened to a presentation from an ad-hoc committee who has been studying the options available as well as a potential supplier of “dark cable” explaining a possible process that was recently adopted in Kent County after a long study. The County Council as you know directed Mr. Mark Cohoon to prepare an RFD for the Council to consider when requesting proposals to wire the County for these essential services.
As someone who does not have access to these basic essentials of modern life, I wholeheartedly support the County Council’s efforts to bring our County into the 21st Century. I was therefore surprised, when it came to my attention that Easton Utilities who had let their franchise to provide cable and internet to Talbot County lapse in 2006, that the Council was entertaining and negotiating with Easton Utilities over granting them a new easement to provide these services in the County. Particularly bewildering is that this was discussed on the same day as the work session on broadband and no mention of this was made at the time of the work session.
As I understand it, Easton Utilities has been negotiating with two communities in Talbot County to provide cable and internet services to these areas exclusively and in order to do so they need to receive County permission to run their cables along County owned property and rights of way. It is troubling to me that the County Council on the verge of issuing an RFP, to provide high speed internet and cable throughout the County to all rural residents, would entertain a proposal from Easton Utilities to cherry pick specific areas where understandably they would make a profit and not require that Easton Utilities provide these same services to other rural areas.
While I am empathetic to the residents of these communities who presumably have been negotiating with Easton Utilities for a long time and undoubtedly being required to contribute to the capital cost of this undertaking and being required to sign long term contracts for this service that the County is not insisting Easton Utilities provide services in other areas of the County.
It was evident at the Council work session on Broadband that for this undertaking to be economically feasible Talbot County would need to contribute to the cost of the installation of the so called “dark fiber.” In addition it was suggested that Talbot County would also avail themselves of this new service for a fee for many worthy municipal programs including emergency services, government offices and schools. It is clear to almost anyone that for this project to be successful the entire community including the Town of Easton and Easton Utilities needs to work together to ensure a greater community good.
The County Council should consider the overall goal of delivering Broadband to all the residents of Talbot County in conjunction with any agreement with Easton Utilities. I will try to attend all meetings that the County Council has regarding Broadband as well as Easton Utilities pending agreement with the County to the extent that my schedule allows. Since I will be traveling in the near future I respectfully ask that my letter be read into the record so that all residents of Talbot County who may be interested in the subject are aware of the significance of the potentially precipitous actions the County Council is considering before entering into an agreement with Easton Utilities.
Frederick Wyman II