ANNAPOLIS — Choptank Electric Cooperative announced it’s on track to begin rolling out broadband service across the rural Eastern Shore beginning this summer in Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Somerset counties.

Choptank President and CEO Mike Malandro said the cooperative plans to offer the high-speed internet service to more than 1,000 unserved and underserved homes in the three counties by the end of 2021. The projects will hit locations from Hillsboro to Barclay, and south and southeast of Princess Anne.

While deployment is starting this year in only three counties, Malandro said he anticipates installation will begin in Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties in 2022, and in Talbot, Kent and Cecil counties in 2023 as part of the cooperative’s 10-year rollout plan.

“I think it’s obvious by the size of the job that we won’t be able to complete all coverage to a county in a single year,” Malandro said to Eastern Shore state lawmakers during a remote video meeting earlier this month. “Our goal is to reach all of the cooperative members with the offer of broadband services over 10 years.”

The cooperative said through its new broadband subsidiary, Choptank Fiber, it plans to connect up to 2,000 homes each year after its initial 1,000-home deployment in 2021. Grant funding, which it is seeking from the federal and state governments, will help speed up the installation process.

Malandro said in an emailed statement he is “excited to begin installations this coming summer for the many members who are without adequate internet access.” He said his company is “aggressively” pursuing funds to accelerate the project and get more people connected.

“We have partnered with Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Somerset counties to get applications to (Maryland’s) Office of Rural Broadband seeking funds this year,” Malandro said. “We will partner with remaining counties on the Shore in 2022 and 2023.”

Jeff Rathell, who heads Choptank’s board of directors and represents Talbot County, said the board is “proud to undertake this long-term project on behalf of the membership.”

“We know how important broadband is, not only to our members, but to the entire Eastern Shore,” Rathell said.

Choptank’s rural broadband plan was made possible after the company pushed legislation through Maryland’s legislature in 2020 that gave it permission to become member-regulated and lift some of the Public Service Commission’s regulatory obstacles.

To learn more about Choptank Fiber, visit www.choptankfiber.com.

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