Md. fails in first effort to receive U.S. funds for broadband

March 03, 2010|By Larry Carson | larry.carson@baltsun.com

A yearlong initial effort by two groups of local governments in Maryland to snag a portion of $7.2 billion in federal stimulus money to install broadband fiber-optic cable throughout the state has failed, except for a $932,000 grant to Coppin State University in Baltimore.

According to an e-mailed letter from a U.S. Commerce Department official received Monday by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the One Maryland Broadband Plan, which represents Baltimore, Frederick, Carroll, Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, plus Baltimore City and Annapolis, did not make the final cut for the first round of funding.

Jessica Schafer, a spokeswoman for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said there were more than 1,800 applications, but just 58 awards in the first round. Another $2.6 billion is up for grabs in the second round, she said. A separate group of rural counties called the Maryland Broadband Co-op also failed to get any of the money in round one.

Ulman said his staff was taken aback since commerce officials called and e-mailed daily for more information or clarification of various points. The letter from Anthony G. Wilhelm, director of broadband technology, said the Central Maryland group reached the final stage in the awards.

"The bottom line is we're surprised because of the [positive] feedback we got all along from staff," Ulman said. "It's pretty shocking that Maryland was left out."

Ulman said the experience has taught him the pitfalls involved in trying to distribute large amounts of stimulus money. He's urging Gov. Martin O'Malley to help lead the new effort in the second round by unifying the two Maryland groups.

"I'm disappointed primarily in the process, but also in the result," he said.

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