Greene County is planning to use federal and state funding to expand broadband access to the eastern, north and rural parts of the county.
Eric Henry, the county’s development director, said the county has sought contract bids and that will determine how much the access will expand. Henry said the county does not have a cost estimate for the project until they see what operators can offer for the expansion.
“Overall project price will certainly be a major factor in selecting a partner through this process,” Henry said. “Additionally, the monthly cost to residents, and the level of internet provided to each household, will equally influence who we select.”
The funds will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program.
In Greene County, many residents can access the internet, but they do not have adequate broadband. The FCC defines adequate broadband as 25 megabits per second for downloading files and three megabits per second for uploading files.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, connectivity to the internet has meant people can work from home, go to school from home and attend telehealth appointments. But people now also use the internet to pay bills online, access basic services and entertainment, and keep in touch with friends and family.
“Access to affordable and consistent internet has a direct impact on quality of life,” Henry said. “High-speed internet is essential for education, business innovation, and healthcare. "
Henry said respondents to their proposal have been asked to provide Greene County with firm numbers, including data about residents who may not have any access to broadband.
“This information will be crucial in helping us determine our next steps and how we can best use our resources to provide Greene County residents with cheaper, better internet,” he said.
Some cities and villages within Greene County have already begun working on expanding their broadband access.
Xenia City Manager Brent Merrimack said his city approached major internet companies about additional build-out in Xenia, but the companies indicated they aren’t interested.
Yellow Springs is also working to expand broadband access to its residents. Village manager Josué Salmerón said the village received $300,000 from Broadband Ohio, a state grant, and is currently getting equipment and fiber installation bids.
“We hope to connect 300 homes by November,” Salmerón said.