Broadband study reveals lack of internet access

Broadband study reveals lack of internet access

Image Credit: File

A new broadband study revealed 38% of households and 81% of populated acres in the 10-county Appalachian region of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association do not have access to FCC minimum internet speeds of 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up.

In 2020 OMEGA received a CARES Act Supplemental Planning Grant for COVID-19 Economic Recovery from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Using funds from this grant, OMEGA retained the Reid Consulting Group to conduct a regional broadband feasibility study for the OMEGA region, which includes Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Muskingum and Tuscarawas counties.

The pandemic exacerbated the need for reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband in this Appalachian region of Ohio for students, employees and businesses.

Using data gathered through the study, broadband profiles were created for each county detailing where existing broadband coverage is lacking, where businesses and homes are located, how many miles of fiber-optic cable are needed to reach those businesses and homes, and the total cost and grant funding needed to install that cable.

Fixed wireless also may serve as a competitive technology in some areas.

“These profiles go beyond just identifying the problem,” OMEGA executive director Jeannette Wierzbicki said. “They also show what it will take to fix the problem and provide guidance to our local officials to identify priority areas for broadband expansion. We are excited to work with the counties and communities in our region to identify funding opportunities to extend broadband to the underserved residents and businesses in our region.”

The study estimates it will cost $743 million to install fiber to the home in the region with $558 million in grant funding needed. Tom Reid, president of Reid Consulting Group, said this is about what it would cost to build just 50 miles of highway.

“The state has built a lot more than 50 miles of highway,” Reid said. “It’s time to invest in digital highways.”

Detailed county broadband profiles are available for public download at www.omegadistrict.org/regionalbroadband/ and at www.connectingappalachia.org/mapping.


Beacon Subscribe