Executive Kittleman unveils public-private partnership to expand broadband access

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman has announced a new public-private partnership leveraging the power of the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN) to bring high-speed internet service to underserved portions of western Howard County. Freedom Broadband has connected its WiFi equipment to the ICBN fiber, and is now offering homes and businesses in Mount Airy the opportunity to purchase high-speed, wireless broadband, with no data limits. The service is being offered at no cost to the County.

“Broadband has become a vital utility,” said Kittleman. “I’ve heard from teachers and students who don’t have broadband in their homes. They often have to go back to school after hours just to access the internet there. I have also heard from small businesses and residents who are unable to work from home. This partnership will give families and businesses in this part of the County the same opportunity for broadband access as those families who live in the central and eastern part of the County. At the same time, it will allow people to spend more time at home with their families.”

The announcement was made in the home of Mount Airy resident David Furman, who has worked with the County to bring broadband access to his neighborhood.

“After we moved here, we realized how much we depend on the Internet — to complete school work, to work from home and for entertainment. It was great to be able to live stream the Super Bowl,” said Furman, who has lobbied to bring high speed internet to the area for two years. “I know there’s going to be a lot of interest in the neighborhood.”

The County’s partner, Freedom Broadband, offers wireless internet service in central Maryland and a small portion of south central Pennsylvania where traditional providers are not available. The company provides alternatives to satellite and mobile 4G/LTE plans with no data caps.

For its first connection, Freedom Broadband has installed its WiFi equipment atop a Mount Airy water tower.
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“Partnering is the key. This gives us a lot more flexibility as far as what we can do. We can use this as a launching point to work with existing structures, like water towers and windmills, to expand our services to more homes,” said Theresa Bethune, President of Freedom Broadband.

Bethune encouraged residents who do not currently have broadband access to contact Freedom Broadband through their website, www.fwbnet.net.

Eddie Zepp, of Zepp’s Plumbing and Heating, says access to the wireless broadband will make it easier for him to conduct his business. “As a small business owner, it’s crucial to have Internet access. We use it for online banking and connecting with our customers,” said Zepp. “When I get home at night, I still have two hours of work to do. Before, I had very limited data. This is going to help a lot.”

“We are combining public assets with private sector ingenuity to the benefit of the residents of Howard County,” said Chris Merdon, Director of the County’s Department of Technology and Communication Services. “We estimate that 15,000 households are underserved and lacking broadband in western Howard County. With the right infrastructure and partners, we believe a solution like the one announced yesterday could reach 80% of those homes.”

To view the video from yesterday’s press event, visit https://youtu.be/_pp_EhZURnQ.

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