Rural Broadband

Montgomery County wants to ensure that rural homes and businesses have access to the robust broadband that they need to thrive in our digital economy. The Agricultural Reserve is almost 30 percent of the land area of the County and contributes $282 million to our economy but is home to less than 2 percent of households. The cost to bring broadband to each rural property is higher than in the rest of the County: the ones that were the least expensive to reach mostly have service, and the ones that are the most expensive to serve are still waiting for service. The County efforts are focused on: (1) identifying where the unserved areas are; and (2) finding ways to expand broadband service to these properties

RURAL BROADBAND REPORT

The Office of Broadband Programs released the Rural Broadband Report. Over a period of two years, we conducted field surveys and postal surveys to identify 32.4 miles of roads and 327 properties in the Agricultural Reserve that do not have wired broadband service. The report also contains information on minimum broadband speeds needed for residential and home-based business service, and demand for broadband in the Ag Reserve. If there is information about the broadband status of a road or property in the Rural Broadband Report that should be corrected, please email us at OBP@montgomerycountymd.gov, use Cable and Broadband Intake Form to provide this information, and call 311 and request to file a cable complaint about lack of service to reach our offices.

RURAL BROADBAND FINDINGS (responses were gathered prior to the Covid pandemic)

We found that:

  • Broadband service has been extended to 63 percent of the Agricultural Reserve
  • The federal government has provided grants to provide service to another 12 percent
  • 16 percent likely does not need to be built (for example, a road on the backside of a farm)
  • The cost to build the remaining 9 percent (approximately 32.4 road miles and 327 unserved properties) might be $4.6 million to extend Comcast and Verizon’s networks, and more to extend other networks
  • 32 percent of Ag Reserve residents do not think their Internet access is adequate
  • 14 percent of Ag Reserve residents would pay more for higher speeds (compared to just 3 percent of non-Ag Reserve respondents)
  • 40 percent of Ag Reserve respondents use their home Internet to run a business (compared 24 percent of non-Ag Reserve respondents)
  • 83 percent of Ag Reserve Internet subscribers subscribe to Comcast or Verizon FiOS

BROADBAND OPTIONS FOR RURAL RESIDENTS

OBP Continues to Work to Expand Broadband Service Within the Agricultural Reserve

  • SpaceX Starlink Satellite Beta Service

    SpaceX Starlink is taking orders to launch a beta broadband service to a limited number of users, based on a first-come, first-served basis. The Federal Communications Commission has awarded SpaceX almost $886 million as part of a program to help bring high-speed internet to rural areas in the US, and some of the grant award areas are in the Agricultural Reserve. Montgomery County is advocating to have our underserved Ag Reserve areas prioritized in the satellite deployment. Starlink will deploy service based on demand.

    Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable. SpaceX believes that subscribers could receive broadband download speeds between 50 Mpbs and 150 Mbps, with latency of 20 ms to 40 ms with some interruptions to connectivity to be expected. Latency is the time it takes to send data from one point to the next. When satellites are far from Earth, latency is high, which may result in poor performance for activities like video calls and online gaming. Starlink satellites are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellite Internet.

    The one-time fees for Starlink service are $680.94 including shipping and estimated taxes (see more information here). The ongoing service fees are $99 per month with no data caps or long-term contracts required. To express interest in Starlink's service, you must order online by providing your address and a $99 fully refundable deposit at www.starlink.com, and Starlink will notify you if your area is selected for coverage. After signing up for service, please use the Cable and Broadband Intake Form to provide your address and contact information to the County, leave the “Cable Provider” field blank, and write “Signed up for SpaceX Starlink service” along with any additional information you would like us to know, and the County will advocate for service to your area as well.

  • Comcast and Verizon Cable and Broadband Service

    Montgomery County has cable franchise agreements with Comcast and Verizon and can enforce requirements for cable service. Broadband service can be provided to cable customers. Both cable providers offer the most robust broadband service available to County residents and businesses. Fees range from $40 for 200 Mbps to $80 for 940 Mbps to $300 for 2 Gbps. Both providers are required to offer service to properties if they are within a specific distance from existing facilities (however, both providers may require additional fees based on the distance the structure on the property is from these existing facilities).

    To file a complaint to request cable and broadband service on your behalf, use the Cable and Broadband Intake Form provide your address and contact information, leave the “Cable Provider” field blank, and write “Rural cable and broadband service requested from Comcast or Verizon” along with any additional information you would like us to know.

  • Sugarland Rural Broadband Project

    OBP worked with local residents and Comcast to expand broadband to 75 homes and small businesses in the Sugarland area.

  • Comus Area

    OBP worked with Verizon to leverage cable franchise agreement requirements to expand cable and broadband service in the Comus area. Since 2019, Verizon has expanded service to Old Hundred Road, Barley Field Lane, Mt. Ephraim Road, Barnesville Road, and Big Woods Road.

  • Connect America Fund II (CAF-II) Grants

    Verizon was awarded over $3 million dollars in federal grants to provide gigabit service in primarily the western portion of the Ag Reserve. Although Verizon has until 2025 to complete its buildout, Verizon has begun to construction in some area and the County expects additional construction to be ongoing in 2021.

  • Telegia Fixed Wireless Service

    Telegia uses fiber and licensed radios to wirelessly deliver broadband service to residences and businesses. Most residents will receive 10 Mbps service but some customers can receive 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps with additional fees and licensing. To express interest in Telegia service, use the Cable and Broadband Intake Form provide your address and contact information, leave the “Cable Provider” field blank, and write “Interested in Telegia service” along with any additional information you would like us to know.