Choptank broadband bill heard by senate

Members of Choptank Electric Cooperative present their case trying to convince Maryland senators to allow them to provide broadband access to the nine rural counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

ANNAPOLIS — Mike Malandro, CEO of Choptank Electric Cooperative, says the company has assessed the landscape and that more than 650 miles of backbone fiber optic cable is ready to be used to deliver broadband access to the nine rural counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, representatives of Denton-based Choptank Electric Cooperative spoke to Maryland senators in Annapolis about Choptank’s plan to offer broadband access to their 54,000 customers.

For Malandro, this isn’t the first time he has expanded broadband services for a cooperative. Before coming to Choptank, he was the CEO of Prince George (Va.) Electric Cooperative, where he turned the company from a $100,000 company to a $10 million company.

“This is my goal for the Eastern Shore: Soon we will be doing a lot of town meetings at community centers, firehouses and the American Legion to raise awareness of our plans,” Malandro said.

Helping farmers in the rural areas is one of the top goals of the company as most don’t have any access to internet.

“We have to be able to provide internet for people with no options,” Malandro said. “If we can help farmers out with the technology they have today, it will be good for all parties to have access and feel like they are living in the 21st century.”

If the bill is passed, the plan will go into effect in 2021.

“If we don’t pass this, the business model is too risky to continue forward,” Malandro said. “This is our one shot in getting broadband for our customers.”

Funding will play a substantial role in the timetable of how the company hopes to provide such services to its customers.

“If approved we look to give broadband access to 40 customers a week and 2,000 overall for the first year,” Malandro said. “Overall, the project will take 10 years to service all 54,000 of our customers.”

In 2022, the company hopes to double the speed of getting customers hooked up to the internet, as well as creating jobs as a result.

“This whole process is what we did with electricity 80 years ago,” Malandro said. “We want to do the exact same thing with broadband, and we feel confident can do it.”

The next step in the process is a hearing with the Maryland House of Representatives at 1 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 5.

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