Comcast, Charter among winners in Maryland's $127.6M broadband funding round

Maryland received a sizable broadband funding boost on Friday, with Governor Larry Hogan unveiling the state’s Connect Maryland initiative has awarded more than $127.6 million in grants to ISPs, local jurisdictions and educational organizations.

Operators that scored big in this funding round for the Network Infrastructure Grant Program include Comcast, Charter Communications, Shentel and Breezeline (formerly Atlantic Broadband). Comcast received two grants of $7.74 million and $9.7 million for Maryland’s Baltimore and Charles counties, respectively.

Both Shentel and Charter also bagged large grants – $10 million and $8.5 million respectively – for Maryland’s Frederick and Somerset counties. Charter last month also snagged nearly $50 million to deploy broadband for several Kentucky counties.

Breezeline obtained awards from both the Network Infrastructure Grant Program and the state’s Neighborhood Connect Broadband Funding Program for Cecil and St. Mary’s counties, with its largest award in Queen Anne’s County – worth $1.39 million. All told, the state contributed $3.68 million towards Breezeline’s broadband expansion. Funds from Breezeline and the three counties provide the operator with a total investment of $4.6 million.

Breezeline further received a $339,000 grant from the Maryland Emergency Education Relief (MEER) program, in order to provide broadband service to additional unserved student households.

Connect Maryland’s funding initiative aims to provide broadband service to around 15,000 unserved and underserved locations. Additionally, the state offered between $50,000-$350,000 in grants for educational institutions, helping them expand infrastructure and availability of internet equipment for students.

“Last summer, we supercharged our broadband investment with the launch of Connect Maryland, for a total new investment of $400 million for the expansion of broadband access, and to fully address the digital divide for everyone all across our state,” Hogan said in a statement. “As a result of these efforts, broadband is now available to well over 95% of Marylanders.”

Connect Maryland last year was allocated $300 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with the state contributing an additional $100 million.

The initiative includes Maryland’s emergency broadband benefit subsidy program. To apply, eligible households must receive prior approval for the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The ACP has allowed providers to offer free fixed internet services to eligible subscribers. Charter and Comcast both unveiled this year custom fixed-line plans, with prices entirely offset by the ACP’s $30 monthly subsidy.

The vast number of Connect Maryland’s funding winners suggests there is plenty of broadband competition to go around. A recent ACA Connects study predicts 74% of U.S. households will have access to at least two broadband providers by 2025. ACA adds such a level of “robust” competition suggests there’s no need to impose additional regulations on ISPs.