State Officials Plan to “Light Up” Rural Areas with Broadband Pilot


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Over the next 24 months, Delaware officials hope to leverage existing fiber infrastructure and a successful wireless broadband pilot to connect rural areas through public-private partnerships, reported Government Technology.

Gov. John Carney announced that the state will release an RFP this month seeking private-sector partners to expand wireless broadband in rural Kent and Sussex counties and in “desert” areas. Delaware hopes to enhance economic development and improve educational opportunities.

Delaware CIO James Collins said the state consistently delivers some of the fastest internet connections in the nation and has been able to leverage the Delaware Broadband Fund, investing in a two-phase broadband pilot.  

In the first phase, the state used the fund to “incentivize providers” to serve rural areas, investing $1.5 million since 2015. Companies including Crown Castle have installed around 700 miles of fiber across the state, reported Government Technology.

In the pilot’s second phase, which began earlier this year, Bloosurf delivered internet to 50 subscribers in Sussex and Kent Counties for the first time. Continuing with the RFP, $720,000 from the Delaware Broadband Fund and an additional $1.3 million approved by the state Legislature will fund the project, said Collins. Additionally, Sussex County plans to utilize $1.2 million of their budget to add new broadband towers in rural areas.

“I think most states are having challenges in rural areas. The market drives access in the heavily populated areas. But when you get to the less-populated areas, there are challenges because the market is not driving there, and unless you do something to incentivize growth in those areas, they struggle,” Collins said.

The state intends to “light up 90 percent of Sussex County” and areas in east and west Kent County, Collins added.

August 15, 2018     

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