Charles County and the state of Maryland are thinking big.
The county commissioners approved a resolution on Dec. 15 to fund $2.6 million over several years to bring broadband to 1,408 locations in the rural areas of Cobb Neck and Nanjemoy. The state will chip in $2.9 million.
The two governmental entities are partnering with a Brooklandville company, ThinkBig Networks, on the project, which is slated to be complete by the end of August 2023. ThinkBig’s portion for capital expenses is $215,361. The first phase of the five-phase project is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 18, 2022.
Deborah Hall, the county’s deputy administrator, called the project “a pioneering public-private collaboration that is a model for the rest of the country.”
She said the agreement was “painstakingly developed” to protect the county and residents alike.
ThinkBig would build a fiber-optic network and provide internet service and transfer ownership of the network to the county. The agreement lasts 20 years.
“This is a monumental moment for our county,” Commissioner Gilbert “BJ” Bowling III (D) said.
The state’s portion of the funds would come from a grant from the Maryland Housing and Community Development Department through the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband.
The county would fund up to 50% of its portion in the first year of the project, up to 40% in the second year and the remaining 10% when 90% of the fiber is installed, tested and approved by the county.
The county can monitor the project for three years after completion to make sure it’s being carried out according to the terms of the agreement.
For the 1,408 customers, there would be no installation or construction fees for the first 300 feet of line installed. Afterward, any cost would not be more than $1 a foot, according to the agreement.
The internet service would provide 1 gigabit per second downstream with a technology roadmap planned to increase it to 10 gigabits per second.
Hall said she would provide more information to the commissioners about the project this month. County spokeswoman Jennifer Harris said the item is scheduled for the commissioners’ Jan. 26 meeting.