DENTON — Choptank Electric Cooperative through its subsidiary Choptank Fiber hooked up its first home to broadband this week, marking a major milestone in the cooperative’s effort to connect the Eastern Shore to high speed internet.

The cooperative kicked off its broadband deployment with a nod to its long history as a provider in the region — by making its first internet connection in Denton at the home of Sherry Hollingsworth, whose grandfather was the first connected to Choptank electricity in 1939.

Hollingsworth said she’s “honored” to have been the first to get the anticipated and much needed internet service on the Shore. “We have struggled with our personal service and our business service for many, many years,” she said during a ribbon cutting outside her house on Thursday.

Now that her home has broadband, she said she’s surprised at the speed of her internet after years of having to endure long waits for webpages to load. “It just popped up,” Hollingsworth said of her Google page, adding that once the service was connected, the change to her internet speed was “immediate.”

While the improvements to Hollingsworth’s internet may have been instant, the work that got the region to this point was far from that. Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, noted Thursday it has been 25 years since the first bill seeking broadband on the Shore went through the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill was a request for an assessment of where the service was needed, Eckardt said. Many pieces of legislation followed, and it was the Rural Broadband for the Eastern Shore Act of 2020, passed in the 2020 legislative session, that gave Choptank the go-ahead to make its plan a reality.

Choptank now plans to connect thousands of homes in the Shore’s nine counties to broadband over the next 10 years. The cooperative’s goal is to hook up 1,000 homes in 2021, and then up to 2,000 homes each year following.

Mike Malandro, president and CEO of Choptank, said the cooperative’s success has been a “community effort” and he’s “really proud to be the leader of this cooperative and to be in such a great community.”

Gov. Larry Hogan, who made an appearance at the Hollingsworth residence on Thursday to help Choptank celebrate its first broadband connection, called Choptank’s achievement “critically important.”

Hogan said he’s committed to “expanding access to high-speed internet in every corner of the state” and will continue working with providers and lawmakers to close broadband access gaps.

Sarah Dahl, general counsel for Choptank, acknowledged that demand for broadband on the Shore is high and residents will likely be wondering when the Choptank Fiber service is coming to them.

Dahl said those who want to be notified about nearby deployment can go on www.choptankfiber.com and enter their address and contact information. She said signing up for notifications does not commit anyone to getting the service.

“But when we do come to their area and are busily building there, they’ll get an email automatically and will be the first to know when they can register for service,” Dahl said. She said Choptank is “moving as fast as we can.”

“It has been a long journey and it has taken time,” Dahl said. “We’re excited to get to work up and down the Shore.”

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