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Garrett County, MD Wins Grant for Broadband Expansion


Tuesday, November 15, 2022   

The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced its 2022 POWER grant awards, and Garrett County Maryland is on the list.

The POWER program focuses on communities in Appalachia affected by coal-related job losses. This year's grants totaled $47 million and went to a variety of projects throughout the Appalachian region.

Garrett County won $435,000 dollars for expansion of broadband internet service to hundreds of homes in the county.

Cheryl DeBerry, broadband and energy manager for Garrett County, said they will be using the grant to help reach homes and communities far from existing broadband infrastructure.

"In places where our providers can't make money by extending to homes, we are trying to do things like digging or boring for them to install the conduit to reach the homes or businesses they're trying to reach, to help offset their costs," DeBerry explained.

She estimates there are 6,000 homes in the county without broadband service.

The Appalachian Regional Commission was founded in the 1960s as a federal-state partnership to help promote economic growth among the 423 counties in the region.

DeBerry noted the benefit of the commission's funding model is projects originate from within the communities themselves.

"The good thing about ARC is the requests come from the people who know what is needed in their specific community," DeBerry pointed out. "It's not the federal government coming in and saying, 'Thou shalt build a road here.' It's the people who are here saying, 'We need a road here. Let's find the funding to do that.' "

The commission reported more than 19% of households in Appalachia lack broadband internet access.

Gayle Manchin, co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, said expanding broadband access is a top priority.

"Part of the mission of the ARC is to create equity, and to help eliminate the disparity," Manchin emphasized. "So certainly broadband is at the top of our list in terms of what we consider the new highway construction that needs to be completed throughout the Appalachian region."

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