The following was published in the Star Beacon on February 25, 2020
by Jon Wysochanski
Efforts are underway to map availability of broadband across the state with the ultimate goal of expanding access to rural and underserved areas.
Connected Nation, a rural internet advocacy firm, received a contract for just under $1 million to gather data and map the outlook of rural broadband across the state, according to Tina Lyden, the firm’s Ohio program director.
The firm is in the process of collecting its final information. Preliminary data released last year shows large pockets across the state, including Ashtabula County, where there is minimal or non-existent broadband.
“What we know is there are clearly gaps in the state,” Lyden said.
The data gathered will serve as a data-driven front to formalize a state broadband plan, Lyden said. Due to a wide range of topography across the state, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a solution, she said.
“These maps will provide a guide for where to find additional funding sources or considerations for un-served or underserved areas,” Lyden said. “The maps will serve as an information tool that we hope to update on an ongoing basis.”
Residents have until Friday, Feb. 28 to take part in an interactive map and survey at the Connected Nation website which will aid the firm in its final data collection. Lyden said she realizes some of the very people the firm would like to hear from — those living in areas with minimal or no broadband — might have difficulty accessing the website.
She urged them to visit a library or a friend’s home or use their cell phone in an area they have service in order to participate.
“If they have the ability to go to a library or community facility with access to the Internet it would be great for them to plug in an address that they know does not have service,” Lyden said. “Those type of plot points are vital.”
State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) said broadband is essential in today’s economy, especially in agricultural applications in which many farmers utilize equipment that relies on GPS systems for planting and fertilizer applications.
There is also a need for broadband because many hospitals are beginning to offer virtual telemedicine visits with doctors for those who live in remote areas or have unreliable transportation.
“I support the efforts as they will yield a map that will effectively manifest our deficiencies in Ashtabula County,” Patterson said.
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