Howard County, Md., boasts a long list of honors, including one for best educated adults, another for having one of the best school systems in the nation, and still more for No. 1 in public library systems.

County Executive Ken Ulman isn’t resting on any laurels, however. He’s about to complete the Inter-County Broadband Network, which will connect nearly 1,000 city halls, fire and police departments, courthouses, colleges, libraries and schools.

Ulman and county CIO Ira Levy reached out to Howard County’s public-sector neighbors and applied for a grant. “We put together a consortium of 10 jurisdictions,” said Ulman, “including Baltimore City and County, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County — the largest counties in Maryland — and we brought in all of our CIOs.” As a result, the consortium won a $72 million grant for broadband rollout.

The network already allows schools to share IT solutions and connected 911 dispatch centers for mutual backup. As it developed, Ulman says the network formed a “public-sector cloud.” But the rollout didn’t stop there. “We are leasing out fiber to the private sector,” said Ulman, “because we go so deep into neighborhoods, by the nature of where the anchor institutions are located like elementary schools, fire stations and libraries. We don’t want lack of capacity to be a barrier to businesses growing and thriving in Maryland.”

Ulman, who calls Levy phenomenal, added, “You’ve got to have your CIO integrated into every significant decision, and then bring all the department heads on board with a consolidated focus.”

The broadband network will be finished before its scheduled August completion date, Ulman said. “We’ll finish this spring and begin to light up sites.”

Photo courtesy of Howard County Government

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Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.