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Delaware moves forward with rural broadband expansion

Delaware Chief Information Officer James Collins and Bloosurf founder and CEO Vincent Sabathier sign rural broadband contract

The state of Delaware is partnering with the Delmarva internet company Bloosurf to add broadband internet to most of the state’s remote, underserved areas. But some areas will still be left out.

Delaware signed its contract with Bloosurf Thursday. The state is footing the $2 million cost of adding routers at 14 internet towers and new fiber optic lines in Kent and Sussex counties. The contract gives Delaware ownership of the routers for seven years.

“We needed to eliminate the capital cost portion of it to make it a fiscally viable path forward for a private company to build out into these rural areas, because they just don’t have the high concentration of subscribers as they do in some other areas of our state,” said Delaware’s Chief Information Officer James Collins.

The move is expected to bring internet speeds in most rural areas of the state to a minimum of 15 megabits per second (Mbps). Officials expect three phases of construction will be complete by August 2021.

State Sen. Dave Lawson’s district is in western Kent County. He says it can’t come soon enough.

“The constituents are fed up. They have to drive into a library or someplace where they can get service,” said Lawson. “Our homeschooling group, which is rather large out there, can’t get service so they’re jammed up over it. The farmers are jammed up. Even—I’m not kidding you—the Amish community that subscribes is fed up with it.”

But some of Lawson’s constituents won’t get the upgrade.

Delaware’s request for proposal targets approximately 127,700 homes and businesses across the state for new broadband service and requires the vendor to reach 75% of those areas.

Bloosurf founder and CEO Vincent Sabathier says he expect to reach 84% of the targeted areas, but adds new towers need to be built to reach some parts of western Kent.

“All of the existing towers—we’re going to use them,” he said.

Areas near the towers are expected to see available internet speeds up to 50mbps at $150 a month. Bloosurf’s least expensive plan offers 10Mbps at $55 a month.

Bloosurf is in the process of becoming a Delaware Eligible Telecommunications Company to be able to offer assistance to lower-income families purchasing broadband.

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