Greene County commissioners have allocated $9.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward expanding broadband internet access to eastern and southern parts of the county.
The county signed a contract with Cincinnati Bell on Thursday to lay 5 million feet of fiber optic cables. The company will be building broadband access at approximately 40,000 locations over the next two years, including 9,600 underserved and rural locations.
The company will deliver its “Fiber to the Premise” network (FTTP) to addresses in Xenia, Cedarville, Jamestown, Bellbrook, Beavercreek, and Fairborn. Under terms of the partnership, Greene County’s investment will “leverage a Cincinnati Bell investment of approximately $55 million to complete the project,” according to a statement from the company.
Additionally, Cincinnati Bell’s Smart City organization UniCity will design, construct, and install the infrastructure to support public Wi-Fi in designated parts of Greene County.
“As far as I know, (Greene County) will be one of the most fiber-penetrated counties in Ohio, if not the most fiber-penetrated when we’re done,” Cincinnati Bell’s David Kramer told commissioners Thursday.
The company will start installing broadband this year, and start building in underserved communities next year, with the whole project expected to be complete by the end of 2025. By the end of the project, Kramer said, Cincinnati Bell will serve an estimated 70% of Greene County.
“Internet connectivity is mission-critical to access jobs, educational opportunities, and health-care resources,” said chief operating officer Tom Simpson. “We are excited about this partnership with Greene County, and appreciate the county’s support of digital equity and equal access to high-speed broadband Internet.
The western half of the county is already largely serviced by fiber lines from several different providers, including AT&T, Spectrum and Cincinnati Bell, but such expansion has not yet been seen in eastern parts of Greene County because it’s largely rural.
Allocating ARPA dollars to reach rural communities was a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” commissioner Dick Gould said.
“When it really kicked in with the pandemic, we thought, ‘We have to do something to get better broadband,” Gould said. “Kids are trying to go to school during the pandemic. We’re providing it to the agricultural community. People don’t realize that agriculture uses a huge amount of data. Plus with Wright-Patt and related tech companies, now anyone in the county can remotely work from home.”
The original concept for the expansion was to have a hybrid system of wired and wireless broadband. However, this expansion will run broadband directly into thousands of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals.
“Anywhere you go in Greene County, you will have access to state-of-the-art broadband,” he said. “We’ll have the technology to compete with any county in the nation.”
The download speeds available through this project range from 250 megabits to 1 gigabit per second. Adequate broadband is 25 megabits per second for downloading files and three megabits per second for uploading files, per the Federal Communications Commission.
Residents will be updated on which neighborhoods will be served with broadband access at what time via the Greene County Department of Development website.
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