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Target Monroe For Broadband

An understandable question most Monroe County residents may have about broadband access to the internet is, “What’s that?”

Broadband access, taken for granted by many Americans, is close to non-existent in the county. It has the lowest availability of broadband service in Ohio, by far.

Just 9.4% of the county is served by service providers offering internet download speeds of 25 megabits per second, according to the Broadband Now national website. Other studies, including one by the FCC, put the number even lower.

That made a visit by a state official quite interesting to Monroe County commissioners. They discussed broadband service last week with Bryn Stepp, a regional liaison for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

“Broadband is somethng I hear about in just about every county,” she told commissioners. Ohio officials are preparing a statewide strategy for broadband, and expect it to be implemented beginning early next year, she added.

Fortunately, Gov. Mike DeWine has the attitude that broadband access is an integral part of the state’s infrastructure. He, Husted and others in the administration are exploring innovative ways of expanding access.

Some of them, such as using interstate highway rights-of-way for broadband cables, sound promising — for other regions of Ohio. Monroe County has no interstates.

Extending broadband services to rural areas such as Monroe County will not be easy or inexpensive. As a state report on the issue emphasizes, “There is no silver bullet in expanding broadband services to un/underserved populations.”

Clearly, however, the task needs to be addressed — especially in places such as Monroe County which are so far behind other areas of the state.

Statewide, Ohio is not doing badly. It ranks 16th in the nation, with about 91.9% of the population served. That makes it even more imperative that special effort be put into helping rural areas such as Monroe County catch up. That ought to be a primary goal of any state strategy to expand access to broadband service.

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