Local man battles for broadband for his neighborhood

A Bath Twp. man and his neighbors are among the 9 percent of Ohio residents who are unable to access adequate broadband internet service because they are located in rural or isolated areas.

Richard Malogorski’s vintage photography hobby and the current state of technology are colliding, and for him it’s not in a good way.

Malogorski wants to be able to show photos and videos of his work to the world online, but he has been struggling to get reliable broadband internet service for himself and his neighbors for years.

“I can’t figure out why we’re living in this hub of technology for the Midwest — Wright-Patt is the most important employer around here, so it’s very technically oriented. It doesn’t make any sense that we don’t have it,” said Malogorski, who lives on Ohio 4 between Upper Valley Road and Bath Road.

“Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is right beyond the treeline across the four-lane highway,” he said as he stood in his front yard pointing to the base, then the utility pole on his property, with AT&T and Time Warner Cable lines clearly visible above him.

He estimates that there are 20 homes, businesses, and one church — in a horseshoe pattern — in this broadband dead zone.

Nine percent of Ohio households do not have access to low-tier broadband, and less than 2 percent have no broadband access at all, according to Lindsay Shanahan, executive director of Connect Ohio, a Columbus-based nonprofit that works to get broadband access to unserved and underserved households.

“They are falling on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Shanahan said.

Tammy Keeton, who lives on Upper Valley Road, is one of Malogorski’s neighbors struggling without broadband. She said the biggest impact has been on her son, who is in high school.

“I hate it that my son is so far behind most kids as far as knowing how to work the computer,” she said. “I blame that on the lack of internet service.”

Keeton currently pays $50 a month for a Verizon hotspot with 5 gigabits of data.

“My son uses that within 10 days, so the rest of the month we don’t have internet. It’s just awful,” she said.

Malogorski said he ramped up his fight for broadband for his neighborhood eight years ago.

“That’s when Time Warner came in here and surrounded us. I was very frustrated going through all these different modems and trying to get internet,” Malogorski said.

Time Warner did offer to connect him for an upfront fee of $44,000, or $2,000 a month for three years.

“They want us to pay all the upfront costs, so they can make 100 percent profit instantly,” Malogorski said. “That’s like if McDonald’s built a restaurant and charged the first guy who bought a cheeseburger $750,000 and said you are paying for the entire restaurant, buddy. I wasn’t about to do that.”

Time Warner issued this statement about Malogorski’s broadband battle:

“We did a comprehensive serviceability study to determine the costs to build our network to Mr. Malogorski and presented him with the results. When we are asked to extend out network to new areas, one of the considerations is the potential to serve additional customers. Unfortunately that is not an option in this case.

“The lines close to Mr. Malogorski’s home connect directly to commercial cell towers, and do not contain residential video, Internet or phone services.

“We try to provide our services to as many people as possible, but Mr. Malogorski lives a mile from the nearest residential network access point. If there were any practical way to build our network to his home we would.”

Malogorski said he bounced from Cricket, to Clearwire, to Verizon, before getting an AT&T hotspot about a month ago. He pays $75 a month for 8 gigabits of data. He said it’s the best connection to the internet he has ever had, but it still takes him four hours to upload a four-minute video to YouTube.

Malogorski has taken his plight to Bath Township, the Federal Communications Commission and its Connect America Fund, and Connect Ohio. He said he is getting nowhere.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to secure a solution to address Richard’s service needs at this time. The anticipated revenue from the new subscribers in his area is not sufficient to offset the cost of build out,” said Shanahan, who added that Connect Ohio is still working on the case.

Malogorski said he will continue his push for broadband.

“The internet is basically part of modern life,” he said. “When it started out it was a luxury, but now it’s a necessity.”

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