Fiber-optic broadband topic of meeting in Selbyville


Area residents and business owners who want the speediest Internet connection they can get have gazed longingly at upstate expansion of Verizon’s FiOS in recent years but have generally been told not to expect fiber-optic speeds to arrive in southern Sussex County anytime soon, even as fiber-optic lines run up to the state’s southern border with Maryland.

“The message I got from Verizon was, ‘You’re basically going to be dead before you’ll get FIOS.’ There are not enough people to justify bringing FIOS down here,” said Bethany Beach Town Council Member Lew Killmer of Verizon’s fiber-optic service this summer during a discussion of the town’s cable service franchise.

That’s a timetable that some in the area have come to accept for fiber-optic Internet to arrive at the Delaware beaches and their inland neighbors, but not everyone is prepared to sit back and wait for Verizon to bring the service on its own.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, interested businesspeople were invited to meet at Doyle’s Restaurant in Selbyville for a lunchtime presentation from W. Patrick Mitchell, president of the Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MBC), who was set to talk about how the cooperative has expanded fiber-optic service to many rural and coastal areas of Maryland and how that service might be expanded into Sussex County through government grants.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, Troy Mix of the University of Delaware and Milt Warren of Delmarva Two-Way Radio also planned to explain “broadband” and many of the confusing terms surrounding it.

The event was designed to offer information about opportunities to extend fiber-optic cables, which now end at the Maryland line near Selbyville, into Sussex County – particularly for businesses in southern Sussex that would benefit from access to high-speed broadband service that is several times the speed of standard cable or DSL service.

Verizon estimates its FiOS service to reach top download speeds of 50 Mbps and top upload speeds of 20 Mbps, compared to 15 Mbps and 2 Mbps for cable-based broadband services. That means the appeal of fiber-optic service is highest for those who use it for transmitting vast amounts of information in a speedy fashion, such as video, telephone and high-density data projects – uses particularly suited to businesses, but also appealing to consumers.

Its business benefits were what led to the arrangements for the Sept. 24 meeting in Selbyville, as a result of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce’s recent Selbyville Business Council meetings. The meeting was arranged with assistance from Selbyville Town Manager Bob Dickerson and Debbie Hudson of Preferred Mortgage Corporation, who pursued the idea of extending fiber-optic broadband into the county.

“We recognize, of course, that the mere presence of a fiber optic network in a region or community does not guarantee economic growth and jobs. It is an enabling resource that, if successfully utilized, will help attract new employment opportunities and contribute towards improved health care, education and government services. Through a regional approach, local businesses and government will work together to take advantage of this advanced, high-speed network,” MBC states on its Web site.

MBC, the site notes, “does not resell Internet services, only the transport components to connect our members with Tier 1 Internet providers.” It essentially helps to create the infrastructure of a fiber-optic network – something Verizon has, thus far, elected not to do in Sussex County. If the idea takes off, it is possible a cooperative could build that infrastructure instead, bringing fiber-optic speeds to the area in significantly less than a lifetime.

For more information, call Andy Cripps at the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, at (302) 539-2100, ext. 14, or contact him via e-mail at andy@bethany-fenwick.org. More information on the Maryland Broadband Cooperative is available online at www.mdbc.us.