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Lawmakers trying to broaden broadband reach in Sussex County

A state lawmaker from Sussex County is trying to demonstrate the need for broadband access in rural areas typically overlooked by private providers.

Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) is surveying constituents to outline demand for the service (you can access the survey here).

Pettyjohn says high-speed internet access has moved well beyond a luxury. He says it’s become like a utility – essential to run a business or educate the community.

Some rural areas in central and western Sussex County have trouble getting cable companies to build out fiber lines to their homes.

Instead, Pettyjohn says they either do without internet or use cellular or satellite options that can cost them more time or money.

“Either their internet gets slowed down or they capped with excessive fees for higher bandwidth usage or higher data downloads," he said.

A push to use telemedicine services in those hard to reach places can also strain data usage on high-cost alternatives like satellite connections or force patients to seek out a free hotspot.

“People with pacemakers, people with insulin pumps...need that broadband access in order to send their data that’s on...those devices back to their physicians and they’re not able to do it from their homes.”

State grants have helped extend a fiber optic broadband line from Middletown to Georgetown in recent years, with local officials trying to extend its reach outside of town.

Sussex County Council set aside $1.6 million in July to potentially bankroll a countywide wireless subscription service run by a private company.

Pettyjohn says the council is hoping to get a state match to help fund the project, which he estimates could take about a year to complete.

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