LOGAN – Internet providers are vying for funding for a new state grant program that was created to help create high-speed Internet access for Ohioans who have long lacked it.
Frontier North Inc., Nelsonville TV Cable, Inc. and Horizon Telcom, Inc. were some of the many who submitted applications in November for the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant program, according to a BroadbandOhio public folder. These three companies and others want to expand Internet access in Hocking County.
The Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grants Program was created by the Ohio House Bill 2 earlier this year and received $ 250 million in funding after Governor DeWine approved the fiscal budget State 2022-2023 in May.
According to a previous Logan Daily News report, the state opened applications for the grant program in September. A press release from DeWine’s office said the projects are intended to provide access to internet service at speeds of at least 25 megabits per second download (mbps) and three Mbps download per second to residents of the areas. “Unserved”, that is, locations that do not already have Internet access through wired or retail wireless broadband service that provides Internet access at speeds of at least 10 Mbps .
HB 2 aimed to close the “broadband funding gap” – the difference between the amount of money a broadband provider needs to build the “last mile” of a broadband network and the amount that the supplier considers it “worthwhile” for the supplier’s investment in building the “last mile,” according to a previous Logan Daily News report.
Applications for the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant program were due on Nov. 8. According to a list of proposed service area addresses statewide, thousands of people are located in Hocking County.
Potential suppliers and proposed projects
Frontier North, Inc., has applied for funding to expand Internet access in parts of Perry Township, among four other townships in Fairfield County and parts of Pickaway County. The “Amanda” project aims to provide broadband service to 626 unserved homes, including some in Laurelville and Rockbridge.
Frontier North, Inc. has also applied for a project centered in Bremen, but could also provide internet to 332 unserved homes in parts of Logan, Marion Township, Fairfield and Perry counties.
Additionally, Frontier North, Inc. has applied for funding for a Laurelville-based project, which includes 224 unserved homes in parts of Laurelville, South Bloomingville, Benton Township, Fairfield, Hocking and Pickaway counties.
“The project area would likely remain unserved for the foreseeable future without funding for broadband infrastructure projects,” Frontier North Inc. said in its application.
Frontier North, Inc. currently offers 50/50 Mbps high speed upload / download service for $ 19.99 per month, 500/500 mbps broadband service for $ 49.99, and 948/800 Mbps broadband service for $ 74.99 per month, says its app. It also participates in federal and / or state programs for low-income people. It serves 25 states nationwide.
Additionally, Frontier North, Inc. has secured letters of support from Hocking County State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), who represents the county in Ohio Senate District 20.
“I understand that Frontier would use the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant funds to expand its fiber network broadband service and make it available to an additional 1,900 homes in Fairfield, Hocking and Pickaway “, reads Schaffer’s letter. “It will have a huge impact on families in these counties and (bring) much needed access to broadband service to an area in desperate need of it.”
Local company Nelsonville TV Cable, Inc. has also applied for funding for various potential project locations; some as close as Logan, others as far south as County Gallia.
Nelsonville TV is seeking to build 46.3 miles of “fiber-to-the-home” network infrastructure for Level 2 broadband Internet access to 736 addresses in parts of Logan, Union Furnace and Nelsonville (Hocking County).
“Without the subsidy, building reliable wired broadband infrastructure in the proposed project area would be prohibitively expensive,” says Nelsonville TV’s request. Its goal is to provide upload / download speeds ranging from at least 25mbps to 200mbps upload / download.
The addresses offered in the Logan area include, but are not limited to, residences on Bobo Road, Buckingham Road and Clay Bank Road. According to its request, Nelsonville TV estimates that the expansion project will cost $ 1,361,220 and “undertakes to invest” $ 254,650.
In November, the Logan Daily News reported that the Hocking County Council of Commissioners had signed a letter of support for Nelsonville TV to work with the Townships of Green and Starr for broadband expansion.
Green Township can use its funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) – $ 269,733.98 divided into two payments – to expand internet access. Nelsonville TV’s request included letters of support from trustees, school trustees in the Townships of Starr and Green, as well as several of the local school districts.
Chillicothe Telephone Company / Horizon Telcom, Inc., based in Chillicothe and Columbus, is also seeking funding to expand broadband in parts of Fayette, Hocking, Jackson, Pike, Ross and Vinton counties.
It is not specified where Horizon Telcom, Inc. wishes to build in Hocking County, but the request cites Hocking County’s Connecting Appalachia broadband profile, a project by the Buckeye Hills Regional Council (BHRC) of which the county is a member. .
According to Connecting Appalachia, 91% of the populated area of Hocking County and 81% of households in the county do not have internet access with download speeds of 25 Mbps. The county has 416 square miles of populated area, of which 379 are unserved.
Horizon Telcom, Inc.’s application states that it currently owns and operates an extensive mid-mile fiber optic network in all areas unserved in its project proposals and intends to “leverage this existing asset. to facilitate the deployment of last mile fiber ”.
Horizon Telcom, Inc. estimates the total cost of Hocking County at more than $ 83 million; it has requested $ 55,920,775 and will provide over $ 22 million in cash contributions and over $ 4.4 million in in-kind contributions. Horizon Telcom, Inc. expects to provide 772 miles of fiber with minimum upload and download speeds of 100mbps and maximum speeds of 1000mbps in the county.
The Ohio Bell Telephone Company, or AT&T, is also considering expanding the Internet to Carbon Hill, Nelsonville (Hocking County), Logan, Ward Township, and parts of Perry County.
In a September email, Ohio Department of Development Public Information Officer Lisa Colbert said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (Director of InnovateOhio), Director of Development at the Ohio Ohio Lydia Mihalik and Wright State University Executive Vice President and COO Gregory Sample were three of the five board members. On Monday, Colbert added that William Goodenough and William Coley were the other two named.
All board members are expected to serve four-year terms with possible renewals and receive stipends; Ohio Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, R-Lima, Speaker of the Senate Matt Huffman, R-Lima and Governor DeWine made the last two appointments.
Regarding the funding schedule for the grant program, according to BroadbandOhio, the challenges for applications are due Jan. 12, 2022 at 5 p.m. and the deadlines for resubmitting suspended applications are due two weeks after the suspension. The review period for applications and award announcements can take up to 30 days.