BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Goodbye dial-up. Thousands of homes and businesses across the state were still logging onto the Internet the old-fashioned way. But a new inter-county broadband system completed this week will change that.

Gigi Barnett takes a look at how it works.

A thousand miles of fiber-optic cables installed on light poles snake across the state, linking schools, emergency workers and libraries up to high-speed Internet.

It’s called the Inter-County Broadband Network, or ICBN for short. State leaders unveiled it this week.

“We are done. We built the system on budget and on time,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

It’s a two-year, $160 million project. The Ciena Telecommunications Company in Hanover provided equipment for the effort. Howard County Executive Ulman spearheaded the new system.

“The fact that we’ve got our two 911 centers now networked and we’ve got the ability to bring all of our public safety video footage into our 911 centers will mean that the citizens of Howard County will be safer,” Ulman said.

But the network isn’t just for government buildings in Howard County. It reaches rural homes and businesses statewide that once only had access to slower dial-up.

Now they can use the faster broadband. State leaders say the ICBN puts all of Maryland online, giving the state an edge over other states.

“Maryland will never have to endure the digital divide. I believe it will be a game changer,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

The underground fiber-optic cables that make up the network will reach nearly two million households and pass by more than 70,000 businesses.

So far, much of the network fibers are still. But county leaders say many of them will be active soon once homes and businesses sign on.

At least eight counties and Baltimore City are linked up to the network so far.

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