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Ashtabula County, Ohio, Gets Nearly $2.5M for Broadband Expansion

The county has accepted a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to expand broadband access. The grant will help make broadband available to 2,986 unserved or underserved households.

(TNS) — Ashtabula County has received a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for just under $2.5 million to expand broadband access in the county.

The project will let the county enter into a contract with a vendor to expand broadband service in areas of the county that are currently underserved or unserved, according to the announcement of the grant from the ARC. The grant will help make broadband available to 2,986 unserved or underserved households and 90 unserved or underserved businesses in 14 communities, according to the announcement.

Public libraries in the area have committed to providing a space for training and meetings, and the libraries, the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau and the Ashtabula County Community Action Agency have partnered with the county to implement coordinated outreach and training.

Earlier this year, the county participated in a request for proposals, and awarded a contract to Spectrum to deploy, operate and maintain a broadband network. There were three responses to the RFP.

The proposed project would install fiber-optic cable in 14 counties, Commissioner J.P. Ducro said previously.

On Friday, Ducro said he and others were optimistic, but had been down that road before with other grant applications that they had not been awarded. This time, he said, the county had the services of a professional grant writer — Jay Bennett — to help.

"That was really a catalyst, I think, and then, of course, we had a lot of great partnerships and hard work and input from a lot of different entities," Ducro said.

To be awarded the funds, the county had to change the project slightly, and will have to conduct another request for proposals.

"We anticipate Charter Spectrum will submit again, because the specs we put out in the RFP will be essentially identical to the original specs," Ducro said. "There will still be a process, we can't automatically award to Charter, but they've been great partners to this point, and we have to go through, still, a competitive bidding or RFP process."

Anyone with the infrastructure in place, or anyone willing to put in the infrastructure, can submit a bid on the project, he said.

The county received just under the maximum available award from the grant, Ducro said.

"I certainly feel it's important to mention our partners at Eastgate, the Farm Bureau, Community Action, the libraries," he said. "All played a vital role. And then many of the individuals and businesses and governmental entities that submitted letters of support for the project. Really a very broad team effort."

The next step will be releasing an RFP for the project, but Ducro said he is not sure of the timing.

"It should be very, very similar to the original RFP, just with a few different language changes in it," Ducro said. "From that point, we would then award and hopefully have them begin the process of getting service out to the community as quickly as possible. I think they actually have three years, with this award, to implement, but we're certainly hopeful that it will happen faster."

©2023 the Star Beacon, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.