Brookfield Trustees Gary Lees and Dan Suttles, along with representatives from Braceville and Howland, participated in a Feb. 18 stakeholders meeting as part of a study of broadband internet access in Trumbull, Ashtabula and Mahoning counties.
The officials had similar stories to tell about internet access within their communities.
The study is pinpointing where broadband access is available, and where it is not provided, said Emily Phillis, planner with MS Consultants, which is supporting Ice Miller, a law firm and the lead agency for the study. Eastgate Regional Council of Governments commissioned the study after receiving a $132,500 grant.
The study also will measure the reliability, affordability and options associated with available services, and recommend ways to expand service and pay for the expansion.
Suttles said Brookfield has “islands,” areas that do not have broadband access or where internet access is unreliable. He noted that he approached Spectrum about running cable wires on South Obermiyer Road – something Spectrum said it would agree to do for $28,000, a pricey project that would have to be paid by the dozen or so homeowners who live on the street.
Tom Shay, Braceville Township fiscal officer, said he has had similar conversations with Spectrum about getting cable extended to the township administration building. The township building “struggles” with internet service with its current provider. Spectrum wants $12,500 to bring cable to the building, but Shay said he is happy that the price has come down from the $30,000 estimate he had received some years ago.
Shay added that Braceville is very rural and there are streets where internet is available through cable lines, but the homes there are far off the road and the cost of running a cable line from the street to the house is prohibitive.
“It’s there, but not there,” he said of broadband access.
Segments of Howland Township’s business community have reached out to township officials about what can be done to improve internet access, said township Administrator Darlene St. George.
Lindsay Miller, broadband and telecommunications attorney with Ice Miller, said she will hold meetings with members of the business community as part of the study, but has already heard that internet connectivity is an issue in retaining and attracting businesses.
“Outside of businesses talking to you about their infrastructure access and individual site utilities, the very next question is broadband,” said Braceville Trustee Aaron Young.
“In today’s world, we definitely have to have that service provided,” Lees said.
Miller said, in her experience, broadband is not a “field of dreams,” meaning businesses won’t locate somewhere just because broadband is available; however, “if broadband is not made available, they will leave.”
Phillis said the study is on track to be complete during the summer, and promised that, “This isn’t just a study for study’s sake.”
“There’s gonna be a lot of effort in making sure we’re coming away with tangible next steps,” she said.
This could be a good time to identify tangible next steps as broadband is being discussed at the highest levels of state government. Suttles noted that the General Assembly is considering a bill – the House has passed it – that would address broadband connectivity, and Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed $250 million in his budget “to help bridge the digital divide,” as the governor’s office termed it.
“Hopefully, it will help the masses, just not the three Cs,” Suttles said, referring to Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
“There’s more money in this state budget for broadband than I’ve ever seen in Ohio,” Miller said. “My understanding of those dollars, on the access side, is that it is going to be for rural areas, rural and Appalachian areas, that struggle with connectivity. It’s for access.”
Residents and business representatives are asked to take a survey as part of the broadband study. The survey is available at eastgatecog.org/broadband For people who do not have access to the internet or who would like to fill out a paper copy, copies are available at the Brookfield Branch Library of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 7032 Grove St.; Scotty’s Brookfield Express Mart, 7045 Warren Sharon Road; and the township administration building, 6844 Strimbu Drive.
Originally published by News On the Green.