WILMINGTON — A “Clinton County Comprehensive Broadband Strategic Plan” released this week recommends that four sections of the county be considered the highest priority for broadband expansion here.
The contents of the report are intended to better equip the county with the tools and data necessary to implement high-speed, reliable and affordable broadband across the county. In short, the term “broadband” refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on.
A Columbus-based consulting group, Ice Miller Whiteboard, conducted the feasibility study that resulted in the report now in the hands of Clinton County officials.
The priority list of potential construction projects aims to extend broadband service to unserved and underserved areas.
The first priority is given, roughly speaking, to an area enveloping Clarksville and Cowan Lake State Park.
In the area, the report says there is currently no fiber presence represented and much of the existing broadband infrastructure is what it describes as “legacy DSL connectivity.” Early broadband network deployments used digital subscriber lines (DSL) or cable, the report adds.
The second priority area of the county is given, roughly speaking, to the region of New Vienna.
The report says this is an area that contains much of Clinton County’s agricultural operations. Broadband connectivity facilitates what is sometimes referred to as “smart” farming – enabling GPS soil mapping, seed and fertilizer counting, irrigation and grain silo monitoring and farming precision.
“As a result, the expansion of broadband in the tract [this second-priority area] is critically important and, from a funding perspective, USDA grants can contribute to the region,” the report states. USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture.
The third priority area is identified as being, roughly speaking, the Martinsville area. This area also contains much of the county’s agricultural presence, the report notes.
And the fourth priority area is, roughly, a strip of territory in the northwest and north-central region of the county.
The report can be put to good use as a “playbook for [broadband] suppliers,” Lindsay Miller of Ice Miller Whiteboard said when she met with county commissioners.
On Thursday, Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said the board of commissioners had in mind a level of capital spending of up to $8 million for broadband expansion. Commissioners said they want part of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) to allocate dollars for broadband expansion.
There is also a major federal infrastructure bill passed in August 2021 that included a total of $65 billion for broadband access to improve internet services in the United States for rural areas, families low-income and tribal communities.
Miller said that by using ARP funds and the infrastructure bill, local governments can be more proactive when it comes to expanding broadband in their jurisdictions — and help guide constructions.
In October 2021, Clinton County Commissioners selected Ice Miller Whiteboard to provide short- and long-term strategies for broadband expansion.
In the commissioners’ request for proposals for the county-wide broadband study and report, their introduction states: “The pandemic has highlighted the historic need for reliable and affordable broadband service, in particularly for distance learning, telework, telehealth and e-commerce. .”
Contact Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.
Lindsay Miller of Ice Miller Whiteboard reviews a map of an area of Clinton County that the consulting group has recommended as a high priority for broadband expansion. She said the blue lines on the map indicate preferred fiber routes.
Left to right, Christopher Miller and Lindsay Miller, both of Ice Miller Whiteboard, prepare to discuss broadband expansion strategies in Clinton County with county commissioners.