Cecil County Exec Sees No Need for Action on Broadband Services; South Cecil Loses Internet Provider

June 19, 2015

Cecil County has adequate high-speed Internet services for businesses in the Route 40 growth corridor and no county expenditures or initiatives are needed, according to a report by the administration of County Executive Tari Moore. But Moore’s report excluded residential customers and businesses located elsewhere in the county and came at the same time that southern Cecil County residents learned their main Internet service provider had gone out of business, abandoning local customers.

Wavevision, formerly known as Bay Broadband, suddenly went out of business about two weeks ago without even telling customers of its action. The wireless radio-waves transmission service for years has been the only source of broadband in much of southern Cecil County. A Chestertown company, Delmarva WiFi, is now scrambling to serve local residents.

Moore’s administration was responding, in part, to a special task force—created last year at the initiative of County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5)—that drew far different conclusions in its 41-page report and advocated a pro-active role by the county government to expand broadband (high-speed Internet) services as both a business development and quality of life issue. The task force released its findings last summer.

Cecil County has lagged far behind other areas in the region, especially Harford County and adjacent Delaware, in broadband services that are often a key factor for businesses to pick a location for new ventures.

In addition, a recent ruling by the Federal Communications Commission to re-define broadband and require higher data download speeds means that even more of Cecil County lacks adequate Internet services. The FCC standard now specifies download speeds that are over four to six times faster than what is available in much of the county, especially in rural areas. And many areas of the county have no high-speed services at all and still rely on vintage dial-up Internet access.

The FCC also recently took the controversial step of ruling that broadband service providers should be regulated like a public utility, such as the telephone services that had previously fallen under federal authority. Previously, those providers had no regulatory authorities overseeing their operations, and on the local level only cable television services have had to obtain county “franchises” that gave them access to road rights-of-way for installing underground cables.

Meanwhile, the county administration’s report classified copper wire technology in several key “growth corridor” locations as adequate to meet business needs. But vintage copper wires— basically, telephone-type wiring which the FCC says is adequate for old-school T1 and DSL services— are far from modern broadband service, and generally do not meet the new standards for broadband specified by the FCC.

Scott Flanigan, the county’s Director of Public Works who headed the administration’s review team, admitted that copper wire services were “slow” but those businesses having access to such services in the target area “seemed to be OK” with it.

Hodge was dissatisfied with the Moore administration’s conclusions, telling Cecil Times he would re-convene the task force the Council named and ask its members to review the Moore administration’s conclusions and issue its own response.

“I’m not buying the fact that broadband capacity and reliability is sufficient” in the county, Hodge said. “I was disappointed” that only a limited geographical area was considered and no consideration was given to the affordability and reliability of what services exist—and whether customers could even tap into lines that might run past their property but cannot be readily accessed for service.

The administration’s report, which was presented to the County Council on Tuesday by Flanigan, said his team found that “broadband service is much more widely available than was presently thought” and concluded that “no county-funded infrastructure project is needed to serve the targeted business areas.”

In contrast, the Council’s task force reached far different conclusions, and called for using some of the $740,000 a year the county receives from cable television companies’ franchise fees for broadband expansion. Right now, that money goes into the county’s general fund to help pay for the overall county budget.

[SEE Cecil Times report on the task force findings here:

Flanigan said the administration’s review calculated 500 megabytes per second (mbps) download speeds as more than adequate for business services and concluded that all 13 locations in various sections of the growth area selected for study had such capacity at least running along the edge of the property. That speed level would be supersonic in comparison with the broadband speed levels available in much of the county—often 4 mbps or less. But some key questions are what it would take to actually get service into a property from a fiber or wired service line running down the road frontage, how much the speed level would be reduced from the main line to individual access points, and the costs of obtaining access.

“There’s a disconnect between what’s in the ground and getting access to it,” noted Hodge.

Councilor George Patchell (R-4), who is also executive director of the YMCA which is located on Route 40, said the Y recently obtained high-speed Internet service from Comcast by paying $10,000 to extend lines onto the property. As a non-profit, the Y was able to obtain grants to cover about three-quarters of that cost, he said.

The administration’s report focused on large industrial parks and facilities, such as the Principio Business Park, the Triumph Industrial Park, IKEA, the Elkton Business Center, and part of the north side of Route 40, all of which has fiber optic lines running past their properties. In addition, the Bainbridge site that the county has been trying to re-develop for decades after the US Navy abandoned the old training center, has fiber lines nearby.

Of the remaining business sites on the administration’s list, four had copper wire only services while four others had cable services or a mix of cable and fiber optic line access.

David Black, a staffer in the county’s planning department, did much of the research for the administration’s study and physically visited sites in the growth corridor to assess what services were available or nearby. He also assessed what it might take to get some local residential areas hooked into the data superhighway.

Sunset Pointe in Earleville, located along Pond Neck Road where Comcast recently installed fiber optic lines running both underground and attached to above-ground poles, cannot tap into the service now. Black said Comcast would be willing to extend service to the 16 properties in the community for a fee of $45,000. If a special taxing district were created with community consent, each homeowner would have to pay $570 a year for five years as an add-on to their annual county property tax bill.

County officials said there might need to be legislative changes in Annapolis to special taxing district legislation adopted several years ago that seemed to limit such districts to the growth area only. In fact, Cecil County already has special taxing districts in rural areas such as the district covering West View Shores, where a beach stabilization project’s loan from the state is being paid off via fees added to property tax bills.

West View Shores—just a hop and a skip from Sunset Pointe– is one of several communities in southern Cecil County that recently obtained fiber optic Internet/TV and phone services from Comcast under a carrot dangled by the county a year ago. In return for agreeing to upgrade the woeful, antique cable services the company offered in southern Cecil, Comcast got an extra five years on its cable TV franchise agreement with the county. But the county did not dangle similar carrots at the other franchisees, such as Armstrong Cable and Atlantic Broadband that serve other areas of the county, and their agreements last for ten years.

For years, much of southern Cecil County has had no choice but Wavevision/Bay Broadband, which at its best delivered up to 6mbps download speed but was unreliable and frequently “down” for days at a time. That company abruptly shut down operations earlier this month.

Jeremy Truax, Sr., chief operating officer of Delmarva WiFi, said his firm reached out to Wavevision with no response. So now Delmarva has worked out a temporary underpinning to keep the old network running and is working with local residents to keep Internet services going. Some local residents say they are very grateful for Delmarva’s stepping up to the plate but at least for now the service is quite slow.

Truax said he had just obtained a lease on a cell tower formerly used by Wavevision to serve the Earleville area and is working with the town of Cecilton to provide services there. In addition, Delmarva is working to roll out new services and expand its reach into Cecil County. The company, which is locally-owned, now serves much of the Eastern Shore and parts of southern Delaware from its Chestertown home.

On its website, Delmarva WiFi asked local residents to “be patient” as the company steps into the breach left by Wavevision’s departure. “We are attempting to complete a nearly impossible task that is both timely and painful.”

For more information on connecting with Delmarva WiFi, call them at (410) 870-9434 or visit their website:


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6 Responses to Cecil County Exec Sees No Need for Action on Broadband Services; South Cecil Loses Internet Provider

  1. Jeannette H on June 19, 2015 at 11:34 am

    May I ask what the qualifications are of those individuals appointed by Tari Moore to make such a critical decision regarding our need for speedy internet access? Does the county not have a highly qualified IT department, staffed with individuals who are educated in highly sophisticated systems and qualified to make such decisions? Does Moore expect to entice large businesses to come to this county, add additional tax revenue to the coffers when the basic service of internet is inadequate for their needs?

    Scott Flanigan, Public Works, and David Black, Planning and Zoning–really? I sit here on the south side of the canal having to hope that I will have internet service at any given hour. I have friends who have been given the opportunity to work from home several days per week because a bulk of their work can be accommodated via internet. But can they take advantage of that particular benefit? Hell no! Why, because their internet access is either slow and/or not available for hours at a time.

    The County Executive needs to look at the big picture and stop focusing all of her energy on the public school system. We pay taxes, and deserve the services. It doesn’t seem to phase Moore one bit to spend more money than imaginable on a school system that is way overstaffed and overpaid, but providing the taxpayers a little benefit of adequate internet access isn’t even considered.

    Can’t wait until 2016, when hopefully the Republican Committee will find an educated, competent individual to run Moore and her puppets out of office.

  2. Roger on June 21, 2015 at 9:14 am

    You have to remember Tari Moore probably isn’t going to live in Maryland forever as we could be just another stop on her world domination tour. I used to read her praises on this site, now everyone appears to have buyers’ re”Moore”se.

    Oh yeah, except for Cecil schools and six-figure salary political activist Ms.Devine! Sure, I’d like Cecil kids getting a world class education but it seems their education today may only compare favorably with lesser developed or third world countries.

    Unfortunately the increasing pressure is on local taxpayers to support basic services and the bloated salaries of a few select employees. Who-da-thunk Cecil County would have its very own queen and serfdom?

    I think we need to ask ourselves how much “Moore” are you willing to pay to fix your internet, the potholes on your street, to clean up waterways, to enforce zoning laws, to attract clean industry?

    Don’t forget Moore’s public subsidization for the whims of developers. Apparently only 24 single family homes got building permits last year in the entire county while Town of Rising Sun seeks over $10 million to feather the nest for other developers whistling a tune of 700 new homes.

    With Cecil County’s net results being narcotic addictions, homelessness, foreclosed homes, potholes, roads to nowhere and non-degreed town employees making over $100K per year, then I ask how much are taxpayers willing to spend before they finally get off their butts and vote the bums out?

  3. Wondering on June 21, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Here’s a thought. Maybe the County Executive is simply following the very vocal dictates of the all knowing residents of Cecil County who weep and wail if she even thinks about looking to the future of our county. Improve the park system? Oh no!! Improve the future of our students and businesses with a new School of Technology? How dare she!!! Create a stragetic plan and follow it? Horrors!!

    No, let’s be sure we continue to do what we do best. Let’s examine every move and rather than working together, let’s tear it all apart. Let’s be sure we find fault with everything because that certainly works well. In fact, it works so well it’s become an art form, the American way–the way of Congress and Washington. Ahhhh, there’s a system to emulate.

    No, here in Cecil County we prefer to whine and complain if the County Executive takes a step forward, works to create a county where people actually want to live and businesses want to locate. Because steps forward tend to cost money and we certainly don’t want to spend any money, do we? Unless of course, it directly affects us– say, if our internet isn’t working. Then that normally spendthrift County Executive needs to spend more, over $700,000 and fix it, for pete’s sake!!

    Even Mr. Hodge can see that. He’s a pretty sharp guy. For instance, he knows the best way to attract and keep a qualified workforce in Cecil County is to cut over $700,000 from their benefits. And during a time when our nation and county is facing an epidemic in drug use, Mr. Hodge decides to cut the County Sheriff’s budget. Which certainly shows how much of the big picture he’s focused on!

    But hey, just don’t mess with our internet!! Can’t wait until 2016 to re-elect Tari Moore and deep-six Robert Hodge.

    • Harold McCanick on October 29, 2015 at 5:52 am

      Let me know how voting for Tari Moore in 2016 works out for you.Her and her wasteful spending.

  4. Ron Lobos on June 23, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Economic Development is the key to many of the problems that trouble Cecil County since that is what supplies jobs, tax revenue and hope to this county. It is also widely known that high speed internet services are needed to aid economic development. The problem here is that Executive Tari Moore has not made any serious progress in this field.

    Instead, we have increased the county’s share of school funding by over 10% in just one year at the expense of public services like the Sheriffs department, libraries and county roads. Just 2 years ago, the county approved funding for a new trade school to be located on a 90 acre parcel of land that is zoned commercial and has public water and sewer. Many of us supported this new trade school. There are few schools around that sit on more than 40 acres, so after talking to the County Executive, council members and having the Cecil Business leaders discuss turning the remaining 50 acres into economic development business opportunities, elected officials made the decision to give the whole 90 acre parcel to the CCPS and then discuss this economic development matter later.

    The trouble with this is that it give complete control of the parcel to the CCPS to do with what they please. So the first thing the CCPS did was lease 8 acres of this to the Farm Museum for $1/year for 99 years without asking for citizen input even though it was the taxpayers who purchased this. This was definitely an abuse of taxpayer money that I call redistribution of wealth.

    Currently, there are still quite a few acres of land left that Tari has put Eric Senstrom and David Black in charge of coming up with a plan for. Here’s the problem. This land was given to the CCPS in such a manner that the CCPS is given complete control of whether they want to give anything back for economic development or whether they want to do something selfish like put solar panels up on this valuable piece of property that has infrastructure available for future jobs. I don’t believe that this failed system called the CCPS will do anything to help with economic development even though it is the revenue derived from it that keeps the CCPS operating.

    There are plenty of flat roofs on the 30 schools and plenty of unusable land out there to place these solar panels on. Tari needs to take this Economic Development more seriously and that includes the development of a viable internet provider.

  5. Scott on October 28, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Cecil County is in poor shape, from the pothole ridden Hwy 40 to terrible internet service provider –Armstrong. No wonder it is still called Cecil-tucky. Shame.

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