Shelby County joins New BroadbandOhio program

By Charlotte Caldwell - [email protected]

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and the BroadbandOhio office announced the BroadbandOhio Community Accelerator cohort on June 15, and one of the four teams is Shelby County.

The purpose of the broadband community accelerator program is to prepare communities around Ohio for broadband funding opportunities from the state and federal levels and to create plans in these communities for how they will spend the money to expand broadband access.

“In the coming weeks and months, communities across Ohio will receive a historic amount of funding for broadband expansion, and we want to ensure that communities know how to deploy these funds efficiently and effectively,” DeWine said in a news release. “This will help local governments throughout Ohio receive expert support as they prepare to leverage new state and federal funding for broadband expansion.”

The other three teams are Defiance County, Tuscarawas County, and the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC). The teams are made up of 50 representatives from 11 counties across Ohio. The program is a collaborative effort between BroadbandOhio, Heartland Forward, the Benton Institute, and The Ohio State University Office of Extension.

The Benton Institute and The Ohio State University Office of Extension will provide more than 30 hours of no-cost expert counseling to help participants identify broadband goals, gather data, understand available funding options, and target capital dollars for broadband efforts in their respective communities.

“This instructional program will provide the opportunity to assess our technology assets, identify the needs of residents, determine feasibility of options, and plan a strategy that will result in an effective solution,” Angela Hamberg, the executive director of the Shelby County Regional Planning Commission, said.

Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann also expressed her support for the program.

“Shelby County is thrilled to be one of only four awarded participants in the broadband accelerator program,” Ehemann said. “We have put together a great team to participate with both public and private entities joining our coalition. We look forward to developing a long range plan through the accelerator program and will be looking to the community to assist via surveys.”

BroadbandOhio is a program started by the InnovateOhio organization, of which Husted is the founder and director. The goal of the BroadbandOhio initiative is “to bridge the digital divide for all Ohioans by bringing high-speed internet access to every Ohioan and building a best-in-class broadband network in Ohio,” according to the InnovateOhio website.

There is also a federal program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started during the COVID-19 pandemic called the Affordable Connectivity Program, formerly known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Congress recently allocated $14 billion to the program to “ensure we can afford the connections we need for work, school, health care and more for a long time,” according to the website.

By Charlotte Caldwell

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.