Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted was in Dover on Monday for a broadband tower activation. The tower is expected to provide internet connection to more than 2,000 homes.
Ryan Grewell is the Managing Director of Intelligent communications, local Internet service provider and partner of the initiative. Smart Way began bringing internet to rural areas of Tuscarawas County in 2014. Internet options at the time in the county were bleak, Grewell said.
“Our goal was to go to unserved and underserved areas of southern Tuscarawas County. There was no internet service,” Grewell said. “You could get satellite. You might get some DSL connections. We saw a lot of dial-up, which was hard to believe.”
Community members clamored for the ability to get broadband, but Smart Way wasn’t getting much return on its community investments, Grenwell said.
“The only thing we were running into was the critical infrastructure, it just wasn’t there,” Grewell said. “We didn’t have the towers in place.”
That was the case for many rural areas of Ohio, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted said.
“When the governor [Mike] DeWine and I took office, it was very clear that we didn’t have a strategy, that we had about a million people who didn’t have high-speed internet, but no one really knew where that was.” , said Husted.
That’s where JobsOhio’s support comes in. By providing project financing and loans, the agency is supporting businesses that may have been hesitant to offer broadband in rural areas for fear of not getting a sufficient return on their investment, Husted said.
“We have to make the economy of this work work,” Husted said. “JobsOhio’s work helps the private sector make the economics of providing these Internet services financially viable.”
This move will make Ohio more economically competitive, Husted said.
“We’re doing it in Ohio more aggressively than a lot of other states are doing,” Husted said, “and it’s going to open doors of opportunity for people here and give us a little more a competitive advantage.”
People and businesses are being turned away from Ohio due to the lack of available broadband access, Husted said.
“Anyone who needs high-speed Internet access, large parts of Ohio are not on the list for them because they don’t have that access,” Husted said. “It opens up opportunities for the entire Appalachian belt that we think of in eastern and southeast Ohio.”
This initiative will also help address broadband inequities, Husted said.
“It creates opportunities for unserved or underserved communities to change their economic future because they will have the means to do these kinds of things in their own community,” Husted said.
Now businesses and households in Dover can access fast internet.
“Based on recent speed tests for this site, the team tells me that this project will increase wireless broadband speed here from 1.4 megabits per second to 524 megabits per second,” Husted said.
This is only the first stage of the initiative which will take four to five years to complete.
JobsOhio’s partnership with Canton-based Internet company Agile networkswill transform many rural areas of the state, CEO JP Nauseef said.
“The tower you can see on the horizon along with many more that will be enabled through our partnership with Agile will help facilitate broadband access for thousands of Ohioans who are currently unable to participate in the access to the modern economy,” Nauseef said.
JobsOhio is providing access, financing and loans to the project, while Agile Networks is building the towers and will maintain them.