Broadband expansion coming to rural Washington County

WTAP News @ 5
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:35 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio (WTAP) -Something that’s a part of life for many of us has been mainly a dream for those living in rural areas.

But now, a portion of Washington County will get long-awaited broadband and internet service.

When Fairfield Township Fiscal Officer Marty Clark went to apply online for American Recovery Act funding, he had to leave his home to do it.

“I could not apply from my house,” Clark recalled Wednesday. “I had to go to Marietta, my place of work, to do that.”

And he’s not alone. 22% of Washington County’s residents, a little more than 13,000, now more than two decades into the 21st century, have no access to the internet or broadband.

“In the past 10 years, there have been many attempts to cover our county, only to fail,” says Washington County Commissioner James Booth. “We’ve seen now how neighbors helping neighbors has been the right approach to our area.”

The Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative, with the help of the state of Ohio, has succeeded in stretching internet access to 300 homes in both the Cutler and Waterford areas. Another 130 residences will be able to keep service they thought they would lose due to an internet provider’s decision to halt service to the area.

And, for the time being, people will be able to access broadband at the Cutler Community Center.

“Allowing people to come here for the community center, is exactly what the cooperative wants to do,” says Peggy Bailey, Project Coordinator for the SEOBC

A tower right outside the community center, used primarily for emergency communications, is the key.

Thanks to the restructuring of bonds, it will not only allow for public broadband service but continued business presence on the tower.

“We’re using some of our existing infrastructure,” said Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, who announced the expansion in a visit to Cutler Wednesday, “making it available, with private-public partnerships to expand internet, and we’re going to do all throughout southeast Ohio.”

Husted said broadband expansion is also planned for Jackson and Scioto counties in Ohio.

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