ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced a public-private partnership with Microsoft Corp. and Declaration Networks Group, Inc (DNG) to expand rural broadband access in Garrett County, Md. As the 13th state to be selected as part of this initiative, Maryland will execute a three-year agreement with Microsoft and DNG to deliver broadband internet access to approximately 30,000 Marylanders. Access to affordable internet service is a proven economic driver that positively impacts property values, enables telework opportunities, and supports online education as early as elementary school.
“Reliable access to high-speed internet is critical for Maryland’s small businesses, families, and students to thrive in our 21st century economy,” said Governor Hogan. “We are working diligently to eliminate the rural broadband gap and ensure that all Marylanders have the opportunity to access trusted, cost-effective broadband solutions.”
In June 2017, Garrett County was one of two pilot programs established by the Hogan administration’s Office of Rural Broadband to improve connectivity for economic and public safety purposes, with a focus on communities that have been underserved. The Hogan administration enabled Garrett County officials to utilize state fiber assets at no charge, through an agreement with Maryland Public Television. This portion of the project commenced ahead of schedule, bringing Garrett County residents significantly closer to broadband accessibility.
Microsoft and DNG aim to address the rural broadband gap for residents and businesses, allowing unserved regions to fully participate in the digital economy through access to technology and services that will empower farmers, healthcare professionals, educators, business leaders, and others in the community.
“This partnership with Declaration Networks will help close the rural broadband gap for 65,000 people living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and in Garrett County, Maryland,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Broadband is essential for agriculture, education, business and healthcare. Microsoft’s Airband initiative is focused on bringing this necessity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022 and accelerating the national priority of closing the broadband gap.”
“DNG and Microsoft share a commitment to establishing quality broadband solutions for rural America,” said Bob Nichols, CEO of DNG. “Our partnership reflects a shared vision that focuses on an effective plan to align stakeholders, technology and resources for a sustainable path to address the digital divide.”
This innovative public-private solution creates a model for ways to expand broadband and other important resources in underserved communities. The Office of Rural Broadband will continue to work with local governments, tri-county councils, and key agencies and stakeholders, including the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, to ensure that all Maryland citizens have access to high-speed internet.