High-speed Internet on its way to under-served areas of Sussex

Life may be getting easier for Sussex County residents who have had trouble acquiring Internet service, as the Sussex County Council announced this week a partnership with wireless Internet service providers BridgeMaxx, Bloosurf, Nuvisions/Broad Valley and DelmarvaVoIP/Conxx.

The County will pay for the cost of renting space on two State-owned communications towers, as well as some of the County’s own vertical assets, for up to two years, enabling the providers to offer services to areas that are otherwise under-served.

“The incentive program is a way for us to plant the seeds of interest and cultivate the business environment for wireless Internet providers here in Sussex County,” said Dwayne Kilgo, director of information technology for the County.

“Not only will this expand the offerings for consumers in the marketplace, and help to serve what we call ‘desert areas,’ but it will create a more competitive atmosphere among all Internet providers — one that, hopefully, prompts them to invest and expand their networks.

“In the end, that could mean even higher speeds, lower prices, and better service — all wins for the consumer.”

After the two years, providers will have to take over the rental cost for the space on those towers if they wish to continue serving those areas.

Areas that will be targeted include Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Georgetown, Greenwood, Gumboro, Laurel, Lincoln, Long Neck, Roxana and Seaford.

The program is being funded through $1 million of the County’s transfer taxes, set aside specifically to expand broadband access to county residents.

The service providers have said that there may be some overlay in coverage areas, noting that the program can offer service to 3,000 to 5,000 people who have no internet, while offering an alternative to 10,000 who already have an existing provider, with rates being competitive to a cable service.

The technology would use a receiver, instead of a cable wire — similar to the technology used by satellites for television and other services.

“This has been a long project that we have challenged you to do,” said Council President Michael H. Vincent to Kilgo. “With the cooperation of the State, you and your people have done a great job. I think this is going to benefit this county a great deal.”

“Access is key,” added Councilman Rob Arlett.

To learn more about the incentive program and Sussex County’s newest wireless Internet service providers, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/broadband.

The council this week also voted unanimously to have the Sussex County EMS to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the State of Delaware, Division of Public Health, and Office of EMS, for 100 percent reimbursement of direct costs, up to $33,000, for teaching naloxone administration to public-safety officers.

“Your paramedics are at the ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” said Jeff Cox, deputy director of Sussex County EMS. “Our worst year, two years ago, we had 440 Narcan administrations to unresponsive, not-breathing opioid overdoses, and we had 78 deaths that year.”

Cox said those numbers are going down due to the administration of naloxone, although they are still seeing the same number of patients.

“Throughout all of this, we have been the lead agency in educating law enforcement and community groups on the opioid epidemic and on Narcan administration. We’ve kind of been doing that on our own dime for a while.”

Cox said Sussex would be the only county to receive funding from the Center of Disease Control to attain 100 percent reimbursement for expenses for their education efforts.

Sussex so far is the only county in Delaware entering into the MOU, as New Castle County turned the funding down.

“Do you believe the use of Narcan is going to cut back on the use of drugs?” asked Councilman Sam Wilson.

“I do not,” responded Cox. “It is not going to get better based on this MOU, but it will help us save lives.”

“I think it’s a great program,” said Councilman I.G. Burton.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the MOU.

By Maria Counts
Staff Reporter