Like most of rural America and the Appalachian region, Garrett County, Maryland faces a challenging broadband ecosystem in which private sector investment has largely overlooked rural areas in favor of the greater potential Return on Investment (ROI) offered by metropolitan areas. The policy-makers of Garrett County seek to improve that ecosystem through a range of strategies—if necessary through public investment—that will expand broadband availability and use and might make the County a more attractive economic prospect for private sector broadband investment.
Garrett County has for a long time recognized broadband as an essential element of economic and community development. Indeed, the County’s economic development strategy recognizes as a critical goal to “[i]ncrease non-satellite, broadband Internet availability to at least 90% of the addresses in the county by 2014.”
As a logical continuation of its years of efforts in this regard, the County sought, in July 2011, to develop a broadband feasibility study and network design, with a specific focus on maximizing the fiber backbone to be built by the One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN) project and increasing broadband access for County residents, businesses, and visitors. The County’s goal, simply stated, is to enable its residents to benefit from the same communications technology as do residents of metropolitan areas of the United States.
In keeping with the County’s economic development strategic plan, the goal of the County’s project is to evaluate the feasibility and establish a plan by which the County can encourage, facilitate, and incentivize deployment of broadband communications facilities to 90 percent of the County’s residential addresses and as many business as possible. Where possible, the County also hopes to encourage competition in the broadband market, so that Garrett County residents and businesses benefit from the innovation and cost benefits that competition delivers.