Electric Co-op Hopes to Bring Broadband to Maryland’s Eastern Shore

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In January, non-profit cooperative Choptank Electric will ask the Maryland General Assembly to pass a state bill during its 2020 legislative session, allowing the co-op to deliver broadband access to rural communities. According to Choptank’s website, the member-owned organization currently serves approximately 54,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in all nine of Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties. The co-op wants to use its 80-year delivery model to bring reliable internet service to members.

According to DelmarvaNow.com, Choptank intends to use federal and local grants to launch the program, similar to its launch of Ruralband, a broadband affiliate of Prince George Electric Cooperative in Virginia.  

“The FCC is expected to auction off over $20 billion for broadband delivery to rural communities next year,” Choptank CEO Mike Malandro explains. “I’d like to position Choptank to bid on those funds to provide broadband to members faster and more comprehensively than other start-ups.” 

Malandro continued, “In order to deliver last-mile service, we will seek permission to use our economies-of-scale and top-notch staff — with a process called ‘Member Regulation’. This will make our board more nimble in the effort to expand service options.”

Ahead of the legislative session, Choptank is collecting signatures through its website, to garner support for the broadband proposal. “We are ready to take on the challenge,” said Jeff Rathell, chairman of the Board of Directors. “If we can get some leeway in state regulations, this not-for-profit can deliver a whole lot more to our members.”

December 19, 2019

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