USDA Rural Utilities Service Visits Talbot County

Guests gather at Triple Creek Winery in Cordova with Easton Utilities and USDA Rural Utility Service Telecommunications Programs team members during a program on the broadband expansion project Connect Talbot. Photo Credit: Karena Dixon Photography

Easton Utilities welcomed more than 60 representatives from the USDA Rural Utility Service Telecommunications Programs on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at Triple Creek Winery in Cordova for a first-hand view of Connect Talbot, a broadband expansion project partially funded by a USDA Rural e-Connectivity grant.

The day kicked off with an interactive display of technical demonstrations and stations designed to illustrate the work going on throughout Talbot County for broadband deployment. Guests enjoyed a hands-on experience with field crews showcasing their work, including all components from initial construction techniques to the installation to the side of the home.

Technical demonstrations and stations for the event illustrated the work going on throughout Talbot County for broadband deployment. Photo Credit: Karena Dixon Photography

The event also featured a customer panel with community members sharing the positive impact of broadband service made possible by the Connect Talbot project. The field day concluded with remarks from USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs Assistant Administrator Laurel Leverrier and Easton Utilities President and CEO Hugh Grunden.

Leverrier praised Easton Utilities, both for hosting the event and for the work they’re doing to extend broadband access in Talbot County. Most of the USDA employees who attended the event live in the Washington, D.C. area and have little chance to see the projects they’re approving in action.

“This is a really amazing opportunity to come today with our team, to see with our own eyes the type of work that is financed through our programs, and to get to meet with the wonderful folks from Easton who are our partners,” Leverrier said. “I think this is one of those days that our team will take back with us, that really will impact us in the way we approach our work.”

Grunden thanked the many partners who made the project possible. “When you partner with the likes of the USDA, the State of Maryland, Talbot County, Town of Easton, and Easton Utilities — whether it be for the engineering, the funding, or the execution — that’s how it works,” he said. “When we talked about this project a number of years ago, it was eminently clear that one source, one entity was not going to get this job done. But when you can bring the resources together, you can do really fantastic things, things that we didn’t even think were possible.”

Cassandra Vanhooser, director of Talbot County’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism, thanked the RUS employees who made the trip from D.C. to Talbot County. She noted that Talbot County shares the USDA’s mission of helping rural America thrive and that broadband is an essential service in a modern world.

“You heard it from the panel today — access to broadband is essential to keep pace with the global economy and prepare citizens to compete in the modern world,” Vanhooser said. “Employment opportunities, business operations, health care, and education all require fast, reliable internet service. Here in Talbot County, we are well on our way to offering service to every household.”

Easton Velocity, a service of Easton Utilities, has made substantial progress installing and providing broadband service to significant portions of Talbot County. As of early September, Easton Velocity has completed more than 225 miles of construction and offered access to more than 1,750 locations. Currently, 920 of these locations have already subscribed to the service and are enjoying the benefits internet service offers.

“This is a generational opportunity, and my small part in advancing this program may prove to be my greatest accomplishment in public service,” said Pete Lesher, vice president of the Talbot County Council. “This is our proudest moment. This is delivering on the American promise of a land of equal opportunity. This is transforming the lives in our community. This is creating prosperity in our corner of rural America.”

As the project continues to evolve and additional funding sources have been confirmed, the scope and timeline of the Connect Talbot project have grown. This is reflected via a real-time interactive map which can be found online at Connect Talbot – Easton Velocity.

“We are proud of the progress and pace of the project, which is on track for completion in advance of the grant requirement deadline of December 31, 2026,” says Ted Book, vice president of Easton Velocity.

Since its beginning, the Connect Talbot project has been dependent on funding from federal, state, and local grants, as well as direct investments by Easton Utilities. Funding sources have included the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), State of Maryland, Talbot County Council, and Easton Utilities.

From left: Maryland State Senator Johnny Mautz,USDA Rural Development Telecommunications Programs Assistant Administrator Laurel Leverrier, and Easton Utilities President and CEO Hugh Grunden. Photo Credit: Karena Dixon Photography

Since receiving the initial grant funding award from the USDA in July 2020, additional locations have been added to the project as well as various grant funding sources totaling over $30 million. In total, the entire project will now provide access to 4,400 locations and is estimated to cost $40 million.

“This project is improving the lives of our citizens by providing better access to health care, educational opportunities, government services, and business resources,” says Talbot County Council President Chuck Callahan. “We congratulate Easton Utilities on the work they’re doing, and we’re proud to partner with them to bring broadband access to everyone in Talbot County.”

Easton Utilities is a community-owned, not-for-profit utility and telecommunications company operating the Electric, Natural Gas, Water, Wastewater, Cable Television, and Internet services for the Town of Easton and portions of the surrounding area. Easton Velocity, a service of Easton Utilities, is committed to keeping our community connected and current with a variety of service offerings designed to meet the needs of both residential and commercial customers. Please visit or call 410-690-4605 to learn more.

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