In this age of instant messages, online breaking news and streaming services such as Netflix, it’s hard for most of us to imagine life without high-speed access to the internet. Broadband, the term used to describe high-speed internet access, has become a need, not simply a want, for nearly everyone.

But access to this utility isn’t easy to get for many in rural parts of Frederick County. Though county officials can’t quantify the number of those who don’t have access to broadband, they believe it is significant. Statewide, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office estimates that as many as 225,000 Marylanders in rural communities can’t get reliable and affordable internet access. In those cases, many must resort to old-school dial-up access over traditional phone lines, satellite dishes or “hot spots” that depend on strong signals from cellphone towers.

In many cases, these folks live in areas where cable companies technically could provide service, but it would require an initial setup cost of thousands of dollars for running a line from the main road. That’s a tough expense for anyone to swallow.

The need is amplified when considering how many home-based businesses are affected or how something as simple as a student’s homework assignment that requires online research or watching an educational video. County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer told us last week about the frustration she heard from parents, particularly those in Wolfsville and Sabillasville where access isn’t the best, while serving on the PTA Council of Frederick County. “If you have a kid in school, and they have a project, you have to actually drive them someplace so they can do the research they need to get done,” Keegan-Ayer told us.

So it’s good to note that the state will be providing $9.68 million in fiscal 2020 for grants to 17 local jurisdictions, including Frederick County, to help with construction, technical services and other needs to help more gain access to broadband. This five-year plan will require a 50 to 70 percent match from jurisdictions that want access to the funds. The state is working on a funding application process now, and that should be ready this fall, state officials said.

Meanwhile, Frederick County officials recently announced plans for a feasibility study to figure out what the county’s broadband internet needs are and where it might be the most cost-effective to install internet access. This study could help the county develop a plan to tap into state funding.

Ultimately, the county and the state must find ways to ensure that access to the internet is available to everyone. Included in these ways must be incentives and regulations that encourage current providers to expand to rural communities. County Executive Jan Gardner already seems on board. “Everyone depends on better connections to the internet, whether it’s through their computer or their phone,” she said last week. “The need is very real in our rural areas and ... it’s part of rural economic development in some of our smaller communities.”

We recognize that some might feel that broadband internet access is more of a luxury than a need. Forty-some years ago, the same argument might have been made about cable television. Just 20 years ago, it might have been said about cellphone reception. But like cable and cellphones, internet access has become essential for most of us. Equal access to it should be a goal. The programs put in place by the state and county are good steps in that direction.

(26) comments

DickD

https://whatsag.com/5g/5g-advantages_disadvantages.php Advantages and Disadvantages of a 5G NetworkAdvantage: Increased Bandwidth for All UsersFor those who don’t know, the bandwidth is the amount of “space” available for people who are using data to download files, view internet pages, and watch videos. The less bandwidth that is available, the slower everyone’s devices will run. One of the advantages of this new fifth generation of wireless technology is that there will be more bandwidth on the data networks of companies such as Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Many people have memories of 3G technology as they watched the progress bar load their web pages. On 5G, this will be a worry of the past. This means that people won’t feel like they are fighting for data with all of the other users when they enter crowded spaces such as sports arenas and airports. With more bandwidth available, people will also be able to use this bandwidth to do more with their devices, making them more versatile than ever before.Advantage: More Bandwidth Means Faster SpeedWith more people able to use this increased bandwidth, some people may worry about their speeds on a 5G network. This will be a problem of the past as people using a 5G network will be able to browse the web, download files, and even stream video at blistering speeds. While people on 3G and 4G networks may remember struggling to download files or watching videos buffer for minutes on end, this will not be a problem with 5G networks. Because of the increased bandwidth, people will be able to use more of it without crowding out other users. With more of the network dedicated to each individual smart device, smart devices will be able to run faster than ever before.Disadvantage: An Increased Bandwidth will mean Less Coverage.One of the key advantages of 3G cell towers was that they could cover immense territory with relatively few cells. This is because the network did not require as much bandwidth, meaning networks had to deploy fewer cells. When technology progressed to 4G networks, the cells were producing more bandwidth, meaning the coverage radius of each cell was smaller. People may have noticed that their coverage may drop more often than on their 3G network. As the 5G network gets rolled out, this trend will continue. More cell towers will be required to produce this immense bandwidth because the cells are not able to cover as much space as a 3G or 4G cell. Because more cells will need to be rolled out, 5G users should expect that their coverage may not be as widespread at first.Disadvantage: The Radio Frequency May Become a ProblemRadios, cell towers, and even satellites communicate using radio frequencies. Frequency is measured in Hz and the radio frequencies tend to operate in the GHz range. Early reports on the 5G network indicate that this network is going to transmit its data in the range of around 6 GHz. Unfortunately, this radio frequency range is already crowded by other signals, such as satellite links. With numerous types of signals operating in the range of 6 GHz, it is fair to wonder whether or not the overcrowding is going to pose a problem as people try to transmit their data signals at this frequency. Will there be issues sending and receiving signals? Time will tell as this network frequency starts to spread.Advantages: New Technology Options May Become Available on a 5G NetworkEarly research and reports on 5G technology indicate that smart devices operating on a 5G network may be able to operate at speeds that are thousands of times faster than on a 4G network. With the initial development of smart devices, tasks that could only be performed on a desktop or laptop computer in the past could suddenly be performed on a smart device, such as email and web browsing. As network speeds have increased, more and more tasks are being transitioned from the world of computers to the world of smart devices. With the increasing network speeds, this could open new doors for smart device technology that may not have been available. What kind of exciting new applications will be developed for smart devices running on a 5G network? What kind of doors will this increased speed open?While the 5G network may still be under development, there’s no doubt that exciting information is coming from the researchers and reports. There is already a race going on to see who will release the new wireless technology first. With every new generation of data network, there are always advantages and disadvantages to discuss. The question is how the network intends on capitalizing on its advantages while shielding its users from its deficiencies that will ultimately determine its success. This information is important because users will want to know what impact a 5G network is going to have on their usage of smart devices.

TomWheatley

Well said, or shall I say, well quoted.

DickD

What no one has addressed is the cost of 5g. You have to put it on polls or other forms of support. The frequencies are milli meter wave length. Any obstruction or a heavy rain can cause loss. Also, they are low power and the cell sites need to be close together. And the signals need to be backhauled to a common location. Similar to the old Central Office (CO ) So, to compete with cable iTV will take many 100 s of thousands cell sites. Costs for such a service is estimated at $20 billion.

MD1756

How about paying for that access through fees on everyone's cell phone and/or cable bills rather than grants from the state?

TomWheatley

A super basic landline phone service for local only comes in around $7.95 plus another $6-$7 tacked on for various items like the 911 fee, because we can fee, etc. Slippery slope letting Government add to any service fee.

MD1756

Do you think it is better to charge all tax payers (use general funds) to pay for the grants to help with high speed internet access? At least charging it through the fees, those who benefit are paying some of the costs. As far as the 911 fee, I already have to pay more so they can upgrade the system for cell phone users and I don't even own a dumb cell phone much less a smart one. Therefore I am paying a fee for a service I can't use. That additional fee should have been added only to cell phone accounts.

User1

Yep. Have had a landline forever. Comes to good use when the power goes out.

User1

Love the statement “equal access should be the goal”. Meaning? People living in the rural areas should expect high speed access the same as those living in town? Why? Your still going to have to pay a internet provider for your plan and get a modem/router. Or is this supposed to be free also? And we are already getting taxed too much by actually paying these companies taxes for them with charges like “tax recovery fee” and such. As I mentioned in a separate post...just have Verizon fulfill their contract and complete their FIOS contract...but they won’t because it’s too expensive.

TomWheatley

And here I thought I had it good growing up in Central New Jersey where we could get six (yes, count them, six!!!) TV channels between New York and Philadelphia. You could get ABC, CBS, and NBC pointing the antenna west and ABC, CBS, and NBC by pointing the antenna east.



The Comcast contract with the County is not exactly a barn burner for our citizens. For the right of getting a virtual monopoly, Comcast has to provide 4-5 channels for local programming out of their 1000+ channels. We need some alternatives for both Internet and TV, although Internet by itself is the more important especially with the streaming services out there.

DickD

You can get about 45 TV channels with just an antenna, Tom. The only cost is for the antenna and installation.

TomWheatley

Yes, but I was talking about the early 60s when if you were really good, you could stay up to 11 to watch the test signal come on!! Not sure when things expanded to 45 channels and yes indeed, the stations are still required to broadcast much like the phone companies are required to keep their landlines in place. More on this later.

shiftless88

Senator Warren had a column on this topic in the WaPost today: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/elizabeth-warren-heres-how-we-get-broadband-internet-to-rural-america/2019/08/27/adc63c4e-c5c8-11e9-9986-1fb3e4397be4_story.html

gary4books

I suggest a regulated 5G service for the County and state law to allow local regulation. The providers stand to make money on this and in return, we need universal (or very close) service for all in Frederick County.

david_gaithersburg

Your regulation and the granting of monopolies is what got us into the mess we're in. In other countries such as Japan the practice this weird thing called capitalism. There internet and cable are 4x faster and cost 1/4 as much as here.

DickD

Is it put in by the government?

gary4books

Japan has a compact society with shorter distances and greater population density. Regulation is not the enemy of innovation and good service. It can be a means to give service to all.

TomWheatley

Exactly and that is what I was about to comment on.

User1

So free internet to the masses or are you saying where there are two homes “on the mountain” to make access available to them? When I became a homeowner I became responsible for my needs. Internet access is only the first step. Then you’ll have the people complaining about “my baby can’t do their homework because they don’t have a home computer like their rich friends. So now free computers? Four words for that.....GO TO THE LIBRARY!

FrederickFan

It is very nice to know that Frederick County and our Executive were already working on a plan for broadband and internet. High speed internet is infrastructure needed in today's world to be economically competitive.

matthewboh

We ;need something along the lines of a wi-fi mesh network service. I wonder how it the contracts with the cable networks are written - probably can't offer it without permission from the overlords....

DickD

You need right of way to install the cable. And they are buried, so you need to get access to a conduit. .

gary4books

WiFi (or something like it.) can cover the distance without $5,000 of very expensive cable or optics.

bnick467

Hotspots are a valid alternative. I live in an area of the county not serviced by cable, and my 4G device is plenty fast enough for non-commercial use. My daughter and I can both stream video at the same time, and only occasionally have issues with it. The problem is with greedy cellphone companies who place arbitrary caps on data, and charge exorbitant prices. There are services who help low income families or those on government assistance to get a low cost 4G hotspot and "unlimited" data at a reasonable price, but otherwise it is very pricey. If the government would invest in convincing the cellphone companies to lift those data caps and lower prices in areas not served by other means, it would be a lot more cost effective.

gary4books

That is great for phone service. Many want 5G to replace cable television and even to provide future services of the "Internte or things." Stay tuned for the future. It will need faster speeds.

User1

Another reason that Verizon has basically abandoned FIOS and are putting the eggs in the 5G basket.

User1

How can I get this hotspot for a low fee? Seems discriminatory to me. Why should I have to work as hard as I do to subsidize a convenience for someone else? Having internet access isn’t a “requirement” for anything. I have a data plan with Verizon that I’m paying thru the nose for and not getting the speed. That’s because I have to upgrade my modem...at my expense!

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