Kent County board chair establishes broadband subcommittee

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Mandy Bolter Courtesy Kent County

Kent County Board of Commissioners chair Mandy Bolter announced she will convene a new broadband subcommittee.

The Kent County Broadband Subcommittee will be charged with assessing barriers to broadband service throughout the county, developing collaborative strategies to break down the barriers and identifying federal, state and local funding models to support the strategies.

“The pandemic has made it clear: access to broadband internet service can no longer be considered ‘optional’ for residents of Kent County,” Bolter said. “For almost a year, thousands of our residents have worked from home, our children have attended school online and patients have relied on telehealth services for critical medical and behavioral health appointments. We need everyone in Kent County to have access to those opportunities through a quality broadband network.”

The group will assess existing broadband coverage countywide; prioritize areas where gaps are most significant and where the population is growing; identify regulations, policies and issues that may stand as barriers to service installation; monitor relevant statewide and national efforts; study successful models in other communities; and recommend for the board’s consideration collaborative strategies to address the challenge.

“There are many roadblocks we have to take into consideration when addressing the need for broadband throughout the county,” Kent County Commissioner Michelle McCloud said. “Our solutions will have to be creative and we will have to tap into the skill set of each subcommittee member.”

The subcommittee also will study the feasibility of establishing an organizing structure, such as an authority of local units of government that could work together to implement the strategies and administer funding to fill the service gaps over time.

“I am eager to start working with this group to ensure our residents are able to access the services and information they need,” said Kent County Commissioner Ben Greene, who will chair the subcommittee. “Information technology has become a critical component of the county’s infrastructure. Each member of this subcommittee will bring unique perspectives and expertise into the conversation.”

Members include:

  • Ben Greene, Kent County Board of Commissioners and subcommittee chair
  • Mandy Bolter, chair, Kent County Board of Commissioners
  • Michelle McCloud, Kent County Board of Commissioners
  • Ken Yonker, Kent County drain commissioner
  • Steven Warren, managing director, Kent County Road Commission
  • Tim Beck, director, Kent County Information Technology
  • Ruth Gaudard, area manager of external affairs, state legislative and regulatory affairs, AT&T
  • Tim Mroz, vice president of strategic initiatives, The Right Place Inc.
  • Marilyn Passmore, director of state government affairs, Charter Communications
  • Ryan Peel, founder of Vergennes Broadband
  • Jeff Snyder, manager of external affairs, Comcast – Heartland Region
  • Natalie Stewart, vice president of government and public affairs, Switch

The subcommittee will begin its work in March and will be asked to provide a progress report to the full board of commissioners at the end of 2021. Depending on the progress and recommendations made at that time, the board may extend its work into 2022.

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