Editor’s note: third in a series.
TOWNSHIP OF GREEN CREEK – Sharon Drown has internet service at her home, but not her business, Drown’s Farm Market, across the street on Sandusky County Road 185.
Its sweet corn and peaches are big sellers this year.
Tables full of zucchini, yellow squash, green, red and yellow peppers are at the center of Drown’s Farm Market, as she hopes to continue what has been a good season at her rural farmer’s market.
With many of its customers using credit or debit cards, Drown has machines to handle transactions that use a phone line.
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At home, she uses the internet to stream her favorite Netflix shows.
“Is that high speed? I don’t need high speed,” Drown said Thursday, as she took a break from waiting for customers in her market, which has been in existence since 1960 for clients of Clyde, Bellevue, Tiffin, Sandusky, Castalia, Bucyrus and Green Springs.
Given her issues, however, Drown would like affordable high-speed internet access to be available at her home and business in what she describes as “the rural Clyde.”
It would be helpful, if she had affordable high speed internet access in her business, to use it with her credit card machines and increase the speed by 30 seconds per transaction.
While she continues to run the Drown Farmer’s Market until Halloween, Drown plans to continue doing things the way she has for decades.
She knows that some of her neighbors and friends on Sandusky County Road 181, about a mile away, do not have the Internet access that she has at home.
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You are looking for affordable Internet access, access in the “pockets”
Drown is reluctant to add the Internet to her farmer’s market because she cares about affordability.
“I’m afraid my bill is going up more and more,” Drown said, minutes before closing the market for the day.
More than 700,000 households, or 65% of the state’s populated land mass, do not have access to the Federal Communications Commission standard Internet speed of 25 megabits per download to 3 megabits per download.
Representative DJ Swearingen, R-Huron, represents the Ohio House 89th House District, which encompasses Erie and Ottawa counties.
There are pockets in his district that don’t have high-speed internet access, that “last mile” where broadband providers need and want to provide service, Swearingen said.
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Southern Erie County has one of these pockets.
The same is true for part of Sandusky, as well as other parts of the district of Swearingen.
“When you move to Ottawa County it’s the same,” Swearingen said.
As in Sandusky and Seneca counties, the affordability of Internet service is an issue that comes up repeatedly with Swearingen as he speaks to constituents in Erie and Ottawa counties.
Swearingen said the complaints he is hearing are that rural internet service can be expensive and unreliable.
“Usually you get this complaint in an area with one vendor. Swearingen said Friday.
The State invests 250 million dollars for broadband
The Ohio State Budget for 2022-2023 includes a $ 250 million investment to expand broadband access for Ohio households that do not have basic connectivity.
Innovate Ohio estimates that more than 300,000 homes, or nearly one million Ohio residents, face a major barrier with high-speed Internet access.
In parts of Ohio, some households lack the basic connectivity children need to do their homework, look for a new job, or access education or training programs online.
And most of these parts are poorly served in downtown or rural areas.
Gary Click, R-Vickery, represents all of Sandusky County and most of Seneca.
Click said Laura Kagy, superintendent of local schools for Seneca East, was one of many community leaders who spoke about the importance of expanding broadband service in Ohio’s 88th House District.
“She stressed to me how important this was to her and her students,” Click said.
He said that once people get out of Tiffin, the speed and reliability of the internet varies in Seneca County.
At Bascom, Attica, and Republic, there are issues with reduced internet speed and reliability, Click said.
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He said he spoke to officials at Charter Communications, Spectrum’s parent company, about committing state funds to improve broadband service and accessibility, and that the company’s interest is to expand its network.
“I think that’s common sense these days. Broadband is a necessity of life,” Click said, comparing this service to water and electricity.
The federal infrastructure bill has been adopted by the Senate, still under deliberation
The US Senate approved a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill earlier this month, including $ 65 billion to expand high-speed Internet access.
This problem which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as social distancing restrictions have forced businesses, schools and governments to carry out daily functions online.
The amount of federal funding for broadband infrastructure in Ohio and other states remains to be determined, as the U.S. House of Representatives and White House assess the Senate bill.
Fremont Mayor Danny Sanchez said he hopes the city will secure federal and / or state funds for broadband infrastructure and internet service.
Future of broadband in Northwestern Ohio, next state budget
Whether state or federal dollars allocated in this budget cycle is a question on the minds of many lawmakers and economic development officials.
Mike Jay, director of strategic networks at the Toledo-based Regional Growth Partnership, said a statewide economic development committee has examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the country’s economy. State.
Jay said the committee looked at broadband internet accessibility and how to reach all areas of the state.
He said a representative from Charter Communications recently told him the company intends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide gigabit broadband internet service in Northwest Ohio.
Spectrum’s service area includes Fremont, Port Clinton, and many towns and villages in the area.
Broadband expansion is necessary for an advanced mobility strategy
Jay said economic development and state officials are also considering broadband expansion in terms of future transportation, such as connected autonomous electric vehicles.
He said the state’s advanced mobility strategy involved autonomous vehicles and their ability to talk to each other on public roads.
Ohio eventually wants to expand its routes with that capability to northwest Ohio, Jay said.
The Regional Growth Partnership covers 17 counties in the region, including Sandusky, Ottawa and Seneca counties.
Jay said Charter is looking to invest significant funding in six regional counties that have underserved broadband communities, including Seneca County.
The state’s $ 250 million investment is a good start to improving broadband service, Swearingen said.
He acknowledged that Ohio must continue if it is to keep pace, with perhaps more funding needed in the next state budget.
Twitter: @ DanielCarson7