Fifty qualifying households in the Oldtown area will be receiving upgraded broadband access from Fibercreek Networks, LLC, thanks to a recently announced partnership between the start-up ISP, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), Associated Charities, and County United Way’s “Live United” grant program.
“Responding to hardships in our community has always been a moving target, but the COVID pandemic really upset the apple cart for local families,” CUW Executive Director Michele Walker explained. “When CUW looks back on how 2020 changed our approach to meeting community needs, this innovative partnership will stand out.”
Walker noted that CareFirst and Associated Charities have long played a creative and generous role in local human services in the Tri-State area, but asking them to help get high speed broadband to remote local communities was brand new territory for all three organizations.
“We owe Barb Buehl for alerting us about the importance of Andrew Cope’s plan to bring broadband to Oldtown,” said Walker. “We owe CareFirst and Associated Charities as well, for understanding that providing income-limited households with dependable, affordable access to distance learning, telemedicine and voIP was a public health crisis that put the well-being of these adults and children at risk.”
CareFirst approved a grant of $45,465.09 for the project in response to an application from CUW. The company describes the goal of their grant program as removing obstacles to health such as poverty and discrimination, caused, among other factors, by lack of access to opportunities that include quality education and healthcare.
The CUW grant application proposal connected these goals with hardships created by the pandemic in houses that lack dependable broadband service needed for public school remote learning programs, telemedicine and mobile phone connectivity.
“At CareFirst, we know that health begins in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods and communities,” said Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, Vice President of Community and Social Impact at CareFirst. “As a not-for-profit health insurance organization, it is our mission to increase the accessibility of affordable, quality care, which includes access to reliable broadband services. By removing barriers to adequate broadband services, we will ensure individuals and families can stay connected to medical experts and educational tools through telehealth offerings, allowing our communities to maintain and achieve better, healthier lives.
Fibercreek will utilize the grant funds to create a fixed wireless broadband access service for Oldtown residents with line-of-sight visibility to Warrior Mountain in Eastern Allegany County.
“In this part of the county, VoIP, video and teleconferencing are either unreliable or not available,” Fibercreek founder Andrew Cope commented.
“The CareFirst grant will make on-line learning, telework and telehealth possible through the purchase and installation of equipment that allows 50 in-home subscribers to use our service.”
Availability of Fibercreek’s services are planned for June. Homeowners in Oldtown will be notified when they may complete applications for the service.
More information about County United Way can be obtained on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CountyUnitedWay, at cuw.org or by calling 301-722-2700.