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FCC Efforts Help Rural Ohio County Expand Broadband Access

As part of the FCC’s effort to provide broadband service in rural areas across the country, Ohio is slated to receive $170 million during the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.

by Malcolm Hall, The Repository / January 25, 2021

(TNS) — Carroll County, Ohio, is receiving $4.1 million to bring high-speed broadband service into more rural areas of the county.

It's part of the Federal Communications Commission's effort to provide broadband service in rural areas across the country. Ohio is slated to receive $170 million during the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.

"I view internet service as a necessity in these days," Carroll County Commissioner  Christopher Modranski  said. "There are a lot of areas that are either unserved or under served. That has always been a talking point here."

Four companies have been chosen to bring the needed upgrades to the county. CCO Holdings, also known as Charter Communications, of Stamford, Conn., is receiving the largest portion of the work as its share of the project is valued at $3.16 million. Charter Communications also is known by Charter Spectrum.

Mercury Wireless will receive $851,286 for its work. The other two vendors are Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium ($50,016) and Connect Everyone. ($46,316)

"Different companies have different contracts," said  Ben Keeler , spokesman for U.S. Rep.  William "Bill" Johnson , R- Marietta. "They all went through a bidding process. It was all bid by census tract."

Areas in Carroll County where the need is most prevalent are the eastern and southern portions.

"Ten years ago, access to the internet was more of a luxury than a necessity," county Commissioner  Robert Wirkner  said. "Now it is a necessity. Our way of life demands that we have access to the internet."

For instance, Wirkner mentioned children who have to complete course work at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Charter Communications will provide infrastructure which will allow broadband to reach 2,628 recipients in Carroll CountyMercury Wireless will provide upgrades that will make broadband available to 2,502 properties.

The other two contractors will install equipment which will serve a total of 29 recipients.

"I understand the initiative is there," Wirkner said. "I don't know how they are going to build it out yet. We haven't heard the particulars on how they are going to accomplish it."

Charter Communications spokesman  William Morand  declined to divulge details on how the company will proceed with the project.

"Right now we're in the quiet period, and not allowed to comment in any fashion," Morand said in an email statement.

With a population of about 28,800, Carroll County is within the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. That small population does not offer much incentive for corporations to invest in the infrastructure needed to bring broadband to rural areas.

"It is just another step bringing us up to date with communications in the county," county Commissioner  Jeffrey Ohler  said.

The program is the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase One. Ohio is to receive $170.03 million over a 10-year period to expand broadband to homes and businesses that lack that service.

Carroll County is receiving $4.11 million. Out of that, Charter Communications is receiving $3.16 million. Connect Everyone gets $851,286. And the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium receives $50,016 and Connect Everyone is slated to get $46,316.

(c)2021 The Repository, Canton, Ohio. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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