Easton Velocity Celebrates Broadband Expansion Success

At a celebration event at Triple Creek Vineyards, Easton Velocity welcomed 150 guests including more than 60 representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with elected officials and key stakeholders who have been instrumental in the success of the Connect Talbot rural broadband project. Talbot County Council vice president Pete Lesher sums it up nicely saying, “This is delivering on the American promise of a land of equal opportunity. This is transforming the lives in our community. This is creating prosperity in our corner of rural America.”

Nearly a century after ensuring every citizen had electricity, Easton Utilities is implementing a digital version, bringing access to broadband service to all unserved residents of Talbot County. “We laid the groundwork years ago for Connect Talbot to ensure ubiquitous access to broadband throughout Talbot County, and now we are delivering thanks to solid partnerships,” says Hugh E. Grunden, president and CEO of Easton Utilities.

The day kicked off with an interactive display of technical demonstrations and stations designed to show broadband deployment. Guests enjoyed a hands-on experience with field crews showcasing their work, including all components from initial construction techniques, plowing, drilling, aerial lashing, and even the installation process connecting service to the side of the home.

A customer panel followed with six community members sharing the positive impact of broadband service made possible by the Connect Talbot project. The guests on the panel included Alex Spies, Triple Creek Vineyards; James Redman, Talbot County Public Schools; Arvin Singh, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health System; Al Sikes, Talbot County resident and former chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission; Paula Taylor, Easton Utilities; and Kathleen Coale, Benson and Mangold Real Estate.

The afternoon concluded with key remarks and acknowledgements led by the Master of Ceremonies, Cassandra Vanhooser, director of the Talbot County Department of Economic Development. She started by thanking all the key partners for the work being done to transform rural America.

“It’s very clear being here, meeting with you all, and hearing from folks that you’re serving of what a community focus organization has – I think it’s really unique. This will be one of those days my team and I will remember and look back on,” says Laurel Leverrier, assistant administrator for USDA.

Senator Johnny Mautz followed thanking the USDA for the foresight to provide the funding needed to get the project off the ground. “I can tell you the significance of making accessibility a priority for Talbot County children and to put the power of the internet in the hands of our children is just phenomenal,” says Mautz. “We’re just so grateful for Easton Utilities.”

“In our modern world, connectivity has risen higher and higher on the list of essential services and has become a vital part of nearly every facet of human interaction,” adds Town of Easton Mayor Megan Cook. “Thank you to Easton Utilities for working tirelessly to accomplish this goal [Connect Talbot].

Easton Velocity has made significant progress installing and providing broadband service to significant portions of Talbot County. As of early September, Easton Velocity has completed more than 50% of the mileage construction mileage and offered access to more than 1,750 locations. Currently, 920 of these locations have already subscribed to service and are enjoying the benefits internet service offers.

As the project continues to evolve and additional funding sources have been confirmed, the scope and timeline of the Connect Talbot project has grown. This is reflected via a real-time interactive map which can be found at www.EastonVelocity.com/ConnectTalbot. “We are proud of the progress and pace of the project, which is on track for completion in advance of the grant requirement deadline of December 31, 2026,” says Ted L. Book, vice president of Easton Velocity.

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.

Since receiving the initial grant funding award from the USDA in July 2020, additional locations have been added to the project as well as various grant funding sources totaling over $30M. In total, the entire project will now provide access to 4,400 locations and is estimated to cost $40 million.