By Greg Wehner
Broadband vendor Talkie celebrated the start of a project to install 30 miles of fiber-optic-cable in Bishopville with a ribbon cutting last week even though the company failed to obtain a grant that was expected to cover the project’s cost.
The price tag on the installation of fiber in Bishopville is $77,000 per mile, or approximately $2.3 million, and once finished, the network will offer internet with speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second, phone service, and home security to residences.
Talkie owners Andrew and Andre DeMattia had hoped to obtain the NTIA grant of $18 million but found out on Feb. 25 that they were not going to win it. In fact, Maryland did not win any portion of the grant.
The NTIA grant that Talkie hoped to win was expected to pay for the Bishopville project, which is now unfunded.
Adding insult to injury, the DeMattias told commissioners that applying for these grants is expensive. The company shelled out $120,000 just to apply for the NTIA grant, a portion of which was paid for by the state.
Talkie has been working with Worcester County to address areas that lack broadband internet. Along with the Bishopville project, the company has been working to install broadband in the Pocomoke City and Snow Hill areas.
But funds are running thin, according to company representatives who met with the commissioners on May 3, and the materials needed to install the service are going up in price, nearly doubling what they were before the pandemic began.
Talkie did win a grant for $3 million over 10 years, and another for $3.6 million. It has also applied for a $2 million grant which should be awarded sometime this month, and an infrastructure grant of $20 million, which requires a 10-percent match and is offered by the state. The match of $2 million would come from a grant derived from the American Rescue Plan Act.