The Baltimore County Courthouse. Photo by James G. Howes, via Wikipedia.

Baltimore County will expand high-speed broadband to the rural northwest parts of the county with a $10.7 million state grant, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski Jr. announced Tuesday.

The grant will help build more than 50 additional miles of broadband infrastructure and expand high-speed internet access to more than 850 homes. County officials expect the project will be completed in 2025.

The $10.7 million grant draws from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, issued by the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband. It is also supported by funds from Baltimore County and Comcast.

“We are committed to expanding broadband access throughout Baltimore County, and this project is game-changing for our residents who will be served with this new connectivity,” Olszewski said in a statement. “Our partnership with the state and Comcast is critical to our efforts in providing much-needed infrastructure and in closing the digital divide in the County’s most rural areas.”

Comcast has received state grant dollars for the expansion of broadband in northern Baltimore County for the second straight year. In total, the projects will newly deliver high-speed internet access to about 1,800 northern county residents.

The lack of reliable internet service in these areas has caused challenges for residents working and learning remotely, searching online for jobs, and accessing healthcare, county officials said.

“We’re proud to partner with Baltimore County to bring our advanced services, including gigabit broadband speeds, to unserved county residents,” said Michael Parker, senior vice president of Comcast’s Beltway Region, in a statement. “This partnership will bolster the hundreds of millions of dollars Comcast has already invested in the state of Maryland by connecting more than 1,700 new residences to our smart, fast and reliable network – helping individuals and communities fully participate in the digital economy.”

Maryland U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said reliable internet access is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for every 21st century household.

This new partnership will help bridge the digital divide for many Marylanders, he added.

“This latest investment of federal dollars will help connect even more Baltimore County residents to work, school, family and friends, and more,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “I will keep working until we connect every single corner of every single community in Maryland and across America to affordable, high-speed internet.”

Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach, who represents northern Baltimore County, applauded the partnership.

“This is a significant milestone in our collective efforts to close the rural digital divide,” Kach said in a statement. “I am thankful for the continued partnership with County Executive Olszewski, along with the active and organized advocacy of our North County communities in this effort.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...