Easton Utilities Awarded $3.5 million for Rural Broadband

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) awarded Easton Utilities $3.5 million in grant funding to extend broadband to the remaining unserved locations in Talbot County.

This funding will be used specifically in the western part of the county including parts of St. Michaels, Bozman, McDaniel, Neavitt, Sherwood, Tilghman, and Wittman as well as several other isolated areas in Easton and Oxford.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle we needed to provide internet service to 100% of the unserved properties,” says Chuck Callahan, Talbot County Council President. “We are taking internet service to every corner of Talbot County, and we are doing it in a fiscally responsible way.”

Other unserved areas have been incorporated into the larger rural broadband project called Connect Talbot. Working in partnership with the Talbot County government since 2017, Easton Utilities has pursued the goal of providing high-speed internet service to the county’s unserved properties. This funding closes the remaining gap for the 8% of locations that were not included in prior grant awards.

“Throughout this initiative, we have focused on securing funding to ensure all residents without access to broadband service will have the opportunity to obtain high-speed internet if desired,” says Hugh E. Grunden, President and CEO of Easton Utilities.

The project will provide service to 3,600 locations currently unserved in Talbot County at a total estimated cost of $35 million. The majority of the project is to be completed by 2026. While the initial financial model included a customer contribution, recent funding of $1.75 million from Talbot County in March 2022 eliminates this potential barrier to access for most future customers.

Since its beginning, the Connect Talbot project has been dependent on funding from federal, state, and local grants, as well as direct investments by Easton Utilities. Funding sources have included the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), State of Maryland, Talbot County Council, and Easton Utilities.

“When we started this project in 2017, none of us could foresee the pandemic and the resulting flood of resources that would become available,” Grunden explains. “Because we were already moving forward as a partner with the Talbot County Council, we have been well positioned to take advantage of these funding sources. We laid the groundwork years ago for this transformational project, and Talbot County is reaping the benefits.”