County prepares for broadband expansion


By Charlotte Caldwell - [email protected]



SIDNEY — The Shelby County commissioners met Tuesday to discuss the progress on the expansion of broadband access to certain rural areas of Shelby County.

The project will use the county’s existing fiber and Ethernet network infrastructure to expand broadband capabilities to rural areas. The goal is to invest in a middle mile solution so the broadband infrastructure has the parts necessary to eventually be transformed into a last mile solution, which means broadband access will be able to be brought directly into the home. Currently, the focus is on expanding upon existing infrastructure from Houston to Russia and from Jackson Center to Port Jefferson, which is a span of 18.1 miles total, according to Angela Hamberg, the executive director of the Regional Planning Commission; the office that is spearheading the initiative.

“The intention is to build the infrastructure for easier access to additional solutions,” Hamberg said.

This plan has been in the works since the summer of 2021 when Shelby County received $9.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which was created due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the economy. The commissioners quickly decided to allocate $5 million of the funds to increasing broadband infrastructure because there were already identified rural areas in the county without adequate access and local internet service providers (ISPs) received no funding from InnovateOhio, a broadband initiative started by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

“Over the course of several months, it was about waiting for local ISPs and larger to be applying for funds through the Broadband Ohio initiative through the State of Ohio, and based on how that was going (we) realized that there’s going to need to be several efforts that’s made to solve our broadband, that it’s not going to be just a silver bullet,” Hamberg said.

Construction has not started yet but is estimated to be complete by NKTelco, a locally owned and operated broadband communications company, by Dec. 31, 2023. The enhancements can be used by multiple providers in the area, not just NKTelco.

The expansion of broadband services is crucial for rural Shelby County residents, specifically those who are still working or going to school from home and require high-speed internet capabilities and the ability to have multiple users online at one time with few connectivity issues. There have also been increases in telehealth service use since the start of COVID-19, and broadband access can directly impact economic and workforce development in the county, according to Hamberg.

For more information, visit the Request For Proposals by the Shelby County commissioners at https://co.shelby.oh.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/RFP_Broadband-Expansion-for-Rural-Area-of-Shelby-County-OH.pdf and the InnovateOhio initiative at https://innovateohio.gov/.

By Charlotte Caldwell

[email protected]

Reach the writer at (937) 538-4824.

Reach the writer at (937) 538-4824.