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Broadband network will open door to wider high-speed Internet availability for homes and businesses

It will link 1,006 government facilities and community "anchor institutions" in every county in the state

November 17, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

A state project to link schools and government buildings to a statewide broadband network also will open the door to wider high-speed Internet availability for homes and businesses, Maryland Deputy Chief Information Officer Gregory Urban said Thursday during a visit to Hagerstown.

Urban met in the Elizabeth Hager Center with officials from Washington County, the city of Hagerstown and other community groups and institutions to provide an update on the One Maryland Broadband Network, a 1,294-mile fiber-optic broadband network that will link 1,006 government facilities and community "anchor institutions" in every county in the state.

The project is funded through a $115 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant.

In Washington County, the network will include:

• Hagerstown Community College

• Division of Rehabilitation Services office on Public Square

• The state correctional institutions on Roxbury Road

• Department of Social Services office on North Potomac Street

• Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

• Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School

• Eastern Elementary School

• Rockland Woods Elementary School

• Children's Village

• Washington County's backup 911 center on Western Maryland Parkway

A map displayed at Thursday's meeting shows the project will reach those sites by running lines from an existing fiber-optic line that follows Interstate 70. One new line will run west on Dual Highway, then north along Edgewood and Robinwood drives. Another will head south along Md. 65. A third will run through the Hopewell Road area before heading east into downtown Hagerstown.

The network will allow institutions throughout the state to transmit data to each other without going across the public Internet, Urban said. Potential uses include distance education, incident management software, sharing of digital maps and data backup, he said.

But the lines also can be used to expand broadband Internet access, he said.

"We embedded in the grant itself, in our proposal, a public-private partnership with the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, which takes some of the strands that are being installed and puts them in the hands of an entity that can lease them to the commercial segment, and lease them to their member ISPs," which would use the connections to offer high-speed Internet to residential customers, Urban said.

The city and county governments also will have the opportunity to share their broadband resources with the private sector, he said.

Participants at Thursday's meeting pointed to the new residential development near Rockland Woods and a planned high-tech office park at Mount Aetna Farms as potential areas that could benefit from tying into the new lines.

Construction on the project will probably start in summer 2012, and the project should be complete by Aug. 31, 2013, the deadline for spending the federal stimulus money, Urban said.

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