Md. Conducting Broadband Survey to Address Deficiencies in High Speed Service

(March 29, 2010)—Despite having the highest median household income in the nation in 2008, many of Maryland's citizens and businesses do not have access to high-speed Internet access at their homes and offices. The Maryland Broadband Cooperative is assisting Maryland’s efforts to provide broadband to all areas of the State. The Cooperative is currently conducting an online survey to map existing broadband capabilities across the state.

Anyone physically located within Maryland can take the test by visiting The Cooperative is looking for input from home, business, and public locations. Individuals are also encouraged to take the test more than once, since network performance can vary depending upon a number of factors such as network load.

After the speed test completes, you are asked for your street adress and zip code. However, the system will let you continue with only the zip code.

The test concludes with a 19 question survey which includes many demographics questions. All of the questions that may be considered personal in nature may be answered with "Rather not say."

The Cooperative's website says the data will be used to drive an interactive online mapping application called the Maryland Broadband Map. "The Maryland Broadband Mapping Initiative will result in a comprehensive statewide broadband inventory, a publicly available interactive Maryland Broadband Map, and contribution of the State's data to the national broadband map. The map shows the geographic extent that broadband service capability is deployed and available in Maryland from a commercial or public provider," states the website.

The Cooperative also states that the data can be used for "infrastructure planning and economic development, especially in Maryland's rural areas."

According to 2009 survey data published on the website, St. Mary's County lags both Calvert and Charles counties in average download speed. Rates in St. Mary's fall in the 6.0 to 10.0 Megabits per second (Mbps) category, while the other southern Maryland counties fall in the 10.0 to 25.0 Mbps range.

Verizon has been rolling out a high speed fiber optic service in Maryland, known as FiOS, with advertised download rates of up to 50 Mbps and upload rates of up to 20 Mbps. The only known rollout location for FiOS in southern Maryland is in select parts of La Plata, Charles County.

Comcast, the primary provider in most parts of Calvert and Charles counties, is advertising data rates of up to 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

Metrocast, which primarily serves St. Mary's County, advertises speeds up to 7.0 Mbps download and 512 Kbps upload.

somd Wireless also offers WiFi access with limited coverage in central St. Mary's and the Breton Bay area. Advertised data rates top out at 1.5 Mbps.

Many people in rural parts of southern Maryland without access to cable, fiber, WiFi, or DSL are limited to satellite broadband from HughesNet. When all else fails, residents must resort to dial-up.

The broadband survey project is being funded by a federal grant related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The State of Maryland is one of several partners in the Cooperative.

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