Hoopers Island business gets fiber optics

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday in honor of new fiber optic broadband communications service having reached Hoopers Island. Johnny Shockley of Hoopers Island Oyster Co. cut the ribbon, surrounded by friends, local and state officials.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday in honor of new fiber optic broadband communications service having reached Hoopers Island. Johnny Shockley of Hoopers Island Oyster Co. cut the ribbon, surrounded by friends, local and state officials.

FISHING CREEK – Business communications took a big step forward here on Thursday, when the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the arrival on Hoopers Island of fiber-optic broadband Internet.

“This is to the 21st century what steel was to the 19th,” Johnny Shockley said. “The whole island is open for business.”

Mr. Shockley was speaking from the wharf of his business, the Hoopers Island Oyster Co., illustrating the connection between the area’s traditional occupation and the latest in communications technology. “We have oysters and we have fiber optics,” he said.

Ok, so what does that mean, on a day-to-day basis?

Pretty much, actually.

Mr. Shockley leads a company known for its innovative research and processes in oyster acquaculture. That’s kind of a big deal around the Chesapeake region, where oyster populations need all the help they can get.

But the company doesn’t only export shellfish – it sends information, often to clients around the world. And those clients often want to get the news via video conference.

Streaming video and audio uses quite a bit of data. Trying to send that information in real time, on old-fashioned – can we say old-fashioned already? – copper cable is sometimes a problem. Anyone who has ever had their Internet slow down, or skip, or just stop, knows what that’s like.

And if you’re trying to sell oysters, or real estate, or anything else, that isn’t good enough.

Enter fiber optics, so called because the cables are made of glass or plastic, allowing a much faster transmission speed, and with a little luck, increased sales for local businesses.

“Oysters, we know, built the economy of Dorchester County,” Brian Roche of Bay Country Communications (BCCTV) said. “They are exporting our technology, our niche, to Asia.”

Still, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

“We’re trying to get a big, comprehensive plan together,” State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) said, regarding how many people or businesses would be interested in fiber-optic broadband. “This is an example of what can happen.”

In the meantime, the Maryland Broadband Cooperative is laying a line under the Bay. “We’ll be able to connect to that,” Mr. Roche said.

BCCTV is the company that established the link with Hoopers Island, running a line through central Dorchester. This line goes past Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Harriet Tubman Museum, South Dorchester School and other facilities.

“All that gets lit up,” Mr. Roche said.

The work continues, as local officials join in promoting faster and more effective communications.

President of the Dorchester County Council Ricky Travers (District 3) said, “We’ve just put out another RFP [Request for Proposals] to try to do this in the rest of the county.”

Commissioner Don Satterfield (District 1) represents the area on the council. “We want to bring wireless Internet to South Dorchester County,” he said. “This is the start of good things in the south part of the county.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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