County working to expand broadband internet to provide more access

The Sussex County Council this week unanimously approved a tower license agreement for wireless high-speed internet that would be aimed at incentivizing wireless service providers.

“We know to provide internet to our rural areas is not economical,” said Dwayne Kilgo, director of Information Technology for the County. “It’s very costly. It’s tens of thousands per mile.”

Kilgo said significant broadband “deserts” exist in the county, noting that Sussex is ranked 438th out of all the counties in the country in terms of broadband service.

“Affordable wired broadband is still out of reach for many rural areas, where access beyond 10 megabits is rare.”

The agreement, said Kilgo, would serve county residents and businesses, and provide for economic growth.

Councilman Sam Wilson asked about the use of satellites to provide service. Kilgo said they have a high latency, noting that the “USDA does not consider satellites as true, proven internet service to rural areas, so it’s not even considered.”

County Administrator Todd Lawson noted that the council had allocated $1 million in its current fiscal-year budget for broadband expansion.

“We’ve got to do this because of the kids,” said Councilman Rob Arlett. “A lot of these kids go home, can’t do homework, they can’t gain access. I think we have to continue to seek and search for new ways to bring high-speed internet to our residents and those students.”

According to a memorandum to the council, the agreement “authorizes any wireless internet service provider access to all County-owned vertical assets (e.g. towers) and/or access to up to two (2) state-owned towers. In the agreement, the county would pay the Delaware Division of Communications $1000.00/month for each state tower requested by the WISP for a maximum of two (2) years.”

The council voted unanimously, 5-0, to approve the agreement.