By 1812Blockhouse

Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Richland County Commissioners focused in large part on a discussion of moving forward aggressively with expansion of broadband along the US30 Corridor from Wooster to Lima. While regional aspects were discussed, the emphasis was on a Richland County-centric approach to bringing this technology to north central Ohioans.

This broadband expansion plan isn’t just a local endeavor. It would ostensibly be a regional collaboration involving Richland, Ashland, Crawford, and four other counties. The effort is envisioned as creating a digital superhighway linking diverse communities. By crossing county lines, this project aims to bridge digital gaps on a scale previously unseen in the area, offering a model for regional cooperation and technological advancement.

Significantly, officials from BroadbandOhio attended the meeting, underscoring state-level support and commitment to this project. BroadbandOhio, part of the Ohio Department of Development, has a mission to bring high-speed internet to all Ohioans. Their expertise and resources are invaluable in navigating the complexities of such a large-scale expansion.

The foundation of the initiative is the construction of a middle mile network. This type of high-capacity fiber network is essential for enabling the last mile connectivity, crucial in delivering high-speed internet to homes and businesses across the seven counties. By focusing on this middle mile infrastructure, the project ensures a robust and reliable backbone for the region’s digital needs.

The potential impact of this broadband expansion includes faster internet access, but it can also serve as a catalyst for regional economic rejuvenation. High-speed broadband access is increasingly seen as a crucial utility, vital for the growth of businesses, education, healthcare, and remote work.

The project is currently in the RFI (Request for Information) phase, a first step in assessing the existing infrastructure and identifying potential providers. This phase is crucial for tailoring the project to the unique needs and resources of the seven counties — including determining what infrastructure might already exist and can assist with the project.

During the meeting, questions were asked about the type and location of infrastructure which would be needed for the project, as well as about efforts to date of contacting the six other partnering counties that would be required. North Central State College’s Dr. Dorey Diab underscored the importance of broadband access, likening it to a fundamental utility in today’s world.

Commissioner Tony Vero highlighted the initiative’s potential to fuel regional economic development and support the pioneering Air National Guard Cyberspace Wing at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport. OANG Colonel Gregg Hesterman, leading the 179th’s transition from a flying wing, emphasized the need for enhanced internet access to facilitate connectivity with mission partners. Barrett Thomas from the Chamber acknowledged the 179th Cyberspace Wing’s role in transforming the community’s work skills.

The U.S. Route 30 plan includes establishing a point-of-presence (POP), possibly near or at the military base, crucial for network and device connections.

Service providers have until February 9 to respond to the RFI, available on the website of the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development.

Image by Lucent_Designs_dinoson20 from Pixabay

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