One of the more interesting, if wonky and obscure, legislative debates from the final days of the truncated 2020 General Assembly session was over whether Choptank Electric Cooperative on the Eastern Shore could be freed of oversight by the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the state.
Being deregulated, the utility’s leaders argued, would enable them to offer badly-needed broadband service to a region of the state that is still highly underserved.
Although deregulation is often seen as a scary word in Annapolis, the bill was a top priority of Eastern Shore lawmakers, and the legislation passed.
Now, the fruits of those labors are being seen. The electric cooperative last week launched Choptank Fiber, Choptank’s wholly-owned broadband subsidiary. The new broadband provider said it plans to begin hook-ups as early as this summer to selected areas.
Choptank Fiber’s goal is to install broadband one community at a time, by reinvesting monthly subscription revenue into developing the infrastructure for the next community, until the entirety of the rural Eastern Shore is served.
With a business plan now finalized, Choptank Electric Cooperative is reviewing existing fiber infrastructure and developing the technical specifications necessary to deliver broadband service.
“We are excited to begin installations this coming summer for the many members who are without adequate internet access,” said Mike Malandro, President and CEO of Choptank Electric Cooperative. “Our plan is to reach our membership on the Eastern Shore in a 10-year period, but we are also aggressively pursuing grant funds at the federal and state levels to accelerate our deployment.”