Butler County to bring high-speed internet to rural areas through $10 million deal with altafiber

Boyko told the Journal-News previously that the RFQs required potential vendors to prove they have the technical expertise to handle the job that will have good upload and download speeds and that their financial means are “sufficiently strong.” so that they are there to continue to provide these services.

When the commissioners held working sessions in the summer of 2021 on requests to share their $74.4 million allocation of federal ARPA money, they heard from two groups talking about the urgent need for internet access. broadband throughout the county.

Deputy City Manager of Oxford Jessica Greene told them that at the height of the pandemic, when students in the Talawanda School District were forced into remote learning, the city spent $16,000 to buy 380 hot spots so they can. She said the problem is much more pervasive.

“I believe it’s a huge issue of economic access and equity in education, employment, public health and job growth…” Greene said. “Before COVID it was an annoyance, after COVID it was crucial.”

To exploreCounty-wide broadband project moves forward

Former county administrator and Butler Rural Electric Cooperative engineering manager Charlie Young was one of those asking for broadband. He presented commissioners with a $3.9 million proposal to bring high-speed internet to about 2,700 rural communities in Butler County, in partnership with Cincinnati Bell. They have since reached another agreement and do not need the money from the commissioners for their project.

Young told the Journal-News previously that he struggled to discern the extent to which the county lacked adequate internet service using the Broadband Ohio website and that it wasn’t easy. His best estimate is that only about 55% of people have truly reliable broadband access.

Canton of Hanover. Administrator Bruce Henry said he couldn’t know for sure how many township residents didn’t have internet access, but people have asked the township for help with the matter.

“I think it’s a good idea, we had talked about it before here in the township, hoping something like this would happen,” Henry said. “If it goes as it should, I think the residents will be well served, who don’t have it at the moment.”

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion US Rescue Package Act (ARPA) on March 11, 2021 and allocated $350 billion to help local governments deal with the pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. When the commissioners learned of the windfall, they invited other governments and entities to submit projects, with requests totaling more than $200 million.

They awarded the first batch of funding totaling $52.4 million in July, allocating the money for the broadband project and donating a large amount – $20 million in total – to educational efforts, namely $15 million dollars to Butler Tech for new advanced technology centers for aviation in Middletown and advanced manufacturing in Hamilton and $5 million for the College@Elm workforce center at the University of Miami.

The second round of funding took place in December, including $16.1 million for city and township infrastructure projects, parks, a community center and a nonprofit complex.

Commissioner Don Dixon said this project was close to the top in terms of significance because it focused on education, so it will have a long-term impact.

“It will help anyone who uses it for research or school, a lot of schools are opening online courses, it just opens up a whole new world for those kinds of uses,” Dixon said. “I think it’s a teaching tool more than anything else. It will also help businesses, but it was mostly driven by our perspective to help the educational side.

Young has not been involved in broadband, but he said he was glad the commissioners decided to fund it.

“As COVID restrictions, stay-at-home restrictions have kind of started to come into our rearview mirror, the ability to do these things is still very much desired, highly coveted and will make a huge difference, especially in rural areas. of Butler County,” Young said.

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