New Opportunities from the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband to Connect Your Community to the Internet

Ziggy Rivkin-Fish, CGEIT, V.P. for Broadband Strategy
Barbara Fichman, Principal Analyst and Researcher
Taylor Brown, MSW, Civic Technology Analyst

If you are looking to expand your community’s internet access in Maryland, you need to prepare for the funding opportunities created by the Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 (the Act)[1] and the Office of Statewide Broadband (OSB). OSB, which replaces the Office of Rural Broadband, seeks to ensure access to high-speed, affordable broadband service to all residents by 2026 by administering the $300 million Maryland has allocated for broadband. OSB’s initiative includes a variety of programs supporting adoption, affordability, and infrastructure. It includes at least $8 million toward spurring adoption and at least $75 million to address affordability support for subscription fees and computing devices. More than $200 million will be targeted toward programs to build out additional broadband infrastructure. The following table outlines a draft of how these funds will be allocated by category:[2]

Table 1 – Draft Funding Breakdown

CategoryTypeValueCategory Subtotal
Digital Inclusion FundAdoption$2,000,000 
Digital NavigatorsAdoption$2,000,000 
Tech ExtensionAdoption$4,000,000$8,000,000
Device SubsidyAffordability$30,000,000 
Service Fee SubsidyAffordability$45,000,000$75,000,000
Broadband and Digital ConnectednessInfrastructure$23,720,000 
Gap NetworksInfrastructure$5,000,000 
Local Government Infrastructure Fund (LGIF)Infrastructure$15,180,000 
LGIF Fiscal Year 2021Infrastructure$30,000,000 
Municipal BroadbandInfrastructure$45,000,000 
Network InfrastructureInfrastructure$97,600,000$216,500,000
Total $299,500,000 

OSB will institute new grant programs and upgrade some older ones. Here is our analysis of OSB’s planned activities:

  • OSB will facilitate listening sessions with internet service providers (ISP) and counties to get feedback on grant requirements. Such requirements may govern service speeds, award ceilings, low-cost or discount programs, and matching.
  • OSB is developing plans and guidelines for some of the categories. The details of which eligible services fall into which categories still need to be fleshed out. Digital connectedness may provide coverage for last-mile infrastructure, and some of the funds that were retroactively allocated for broadband in fiscal year 2021 may be channeled for additional broadband planning and federal grant application support.
  • OSB is also expecting to develop new requirements for the program funds, including for infrastructure, to reflect changing needs, funds, and statutory restrictions. Some requirements regarding matching funds and eligibility would be the result of the listening sessions mentioned above, but some are tied to the source of funding. The State is using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) for its broadband program, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury has provided guidelines and restrictions on how those funds can be used.

If you are not prepared to apply for these funds, you need to get ready—fast. Although we expect many proposals to receive funding because of the State’s significant investment in broadband, you and your potential partners should already be prepared to apply for funding. In drawing your routes, you should prioritize unserved areas in your jurisdiction, which are clearly a priority. However, keep in mind that ARPA gives some leeway regarding your boundaries, allowing you to build out service to served areas along your route to unserved areas. That flexibility is attractive to ISPs because it allows them to provide better broadband to poorly served areas along with the targeted unserved areas. Again, OSB will provide clarification on how best to accomplish your broadband goals.

We are here to help

CTC can help you get up to speed on the new broadband funding landscape in Maryland. We can guide you through a full range of tasks related to grant applications, from articulating a project concept to preparing an application package. Please let us know if we can help you:

  • Develop a grant strategy and refine a project concept – whether for building new infrastructure, developing and organizing a device-lending program, or developing a project to promote and subsidize the adoption of broadband or any other digital-inclusion elements
  • Form a collaboration between you and partners
  • Create a checklist of required project documentation and application requirements
  • Prepare technical and financial models for your proposed project
  • Edit and refine your draft application packages
  • Submit your application

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions. CTC’s funding strategies and grant-writing team stands ready to assist you, your public partners, and your private collaborators with expanding your community’s broadband infrastructure.

[1] HB97/SB66

[2] This table was adapted from Maryland’s Supplemental Budget No. 5 – Fiscal Year 2022 and informed by the Governor’s staff.

Published: Thursday, July 8, 2021 by CTC Technology & Energy