DOVER TWP. ‒ The launch of a new wireless broadband tower is being hailed as a “day of transformation” for Tuscarawas County.
The tower, located on Spooky Hollow Road near the Dutch Valley restaurant in Sugarcreek, will be able to provide high-speed internet access to 2,400 households and 125 businesses in the area surrounding the tower. Available internet speeds are expected to increase from 1.4 megabits per second to 524 megabits per second.
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One of the first businesses connected was Breitenbach Wine Cellars near Dover. His service began on Monday.
“I feel like I’m jumping on the Internet’s interstate highway system,” owner Dalton “Duke” Bixler said.
He said he would now be able to communicate with his suppliers and customers “in a fraction of a second”.
“I’m just excited for Tuscarawas County and all of the businesses. I think we’re all going to benefit from this in so many ways,” Bixler said.
The launch of the new tower was announced at a press conference Monday at Toolshed at Breitenbach Vineyards, part of Breitenbach Wine Cellars. Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted was on hand for the announcement.
How the network will work
Digital Access Ohio was formed in 2021 by Canton-based Agile Networks to build, own, market and operate up to 75 new telecommunications tower sites, primarily in rural Ohio. Digital Access Ohio will design and build connectivity to these sites and install additional access points on 135 existing towers in the state. Wireless internet service providers can then use this infrastructure to deliver broadband to state residents and businesses.
Uhrichsville-based Smart Way Communications will be the first company to use the towers built by Digital Access Ohio to provide service in the Sugarcreek area.
Ryan Grewell, managing director of Smart Way Communications, said his company can connect customers to the Internet faster by using wireless instead of laying fiber.
“You don’t have to plan for two years, just like fiber,” he said. “You have to get permissions and everything to access that user. We can use an existing vertical asset that’s already there, put an antenna, set up the antenna one afternoon at someone’s house. They can have the top throughput within an hour.”
Since Smart Way doesn’t have to build the towers, it can reduce its costs of serving residents and businesses, he noted.
The initiative supports Ohio Statewide Broadband Strategywhich the DeWine-Husted administration created in 2019 to improve access for unserved and underserved groups.
Husted said the initiative is designed to make broadband more affordable for rural residents.
“It’s going to open up the world of health, economics, education to all those families and businesses that didn’t have access to it before,” he said. “In a world that’s increasingly reliant on these kinds of connectivities, you’re literally empowering an entire county, its people, and the businesses that are here to open the doors of operation for everyone to sell things online, working online, doing other things that they couldn’t do before.”
Price tag:$85 million needed to bring broadband to everyone in Tuscarawas County
JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development corporation, is helping the process by providing access, financing and loans to make broadband expansion viable.
“The reason private sector companies don’t provide internet access is because it doesn’t make financial sense to them,” the lieutenant governor said. “If they can’t recover their costs in seven years, they don’t invest. When you have hard topography to build, not a very dense population and not a population that can really afford to pay a lot, they don’t were just not going to build it.”
“If any part of this is not connected, then you’re not getting there”
Husted compared building the necessary infrastructure to a river.
“The internet is like the Mississippi River. You want to connect to it,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things that need to be connected. You need to connect the Ohio River to it, you need to connect the Tuscarawas (river). That’s what the internet looks like. If part of that is not connected, then you can’t get there. It’s a major part of creating a high-speed internet tributary for people who live in that part of the state.
Commissioner Chris Abbuhl explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for broadband access in all parts of Tuscarawas County. When schools were closed, students had to do their work online. But many families didn’t have internet at home, so children had to drive to church or restaurant parking lots, where access was available, to do their schoolwork.
“I therefore believe that we have passed the tipping point for broadband access and can confidently say that reliable and affordable broadband connectivity is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity” , did he declare.
Nearly one million Ohioans need high-speed Internet access, according to BroadbandOhio. Ohio ranked 17th out of 50 states according to BroadbandNow’s “Best and Worst States for Internet Coverage, Prices and Speeds, 2021,” and Ohio ranked 26th out of 50 states according to US News & World Report for high-speed Internet access.