Ohio communities face numerous connectivity challenges related to both broadband access and adoption. The problems are not unique to rural or urban areas. Local governments across the state are using a variety of innovative models to fill infrastructure gaps in their communities while simultaneously working to ensure that residents have the tools they need to participate in the 21st Century economy.
During NCC’s virtual conference on July 21st, 2021, we had an opportunity to showcase how local leadership can impact broadband outcomes across a state. Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman and Ernie Staten, Public Service Director for the City of Fairlawn, discussed their communities’ pandemic response and larger goals to connect Ohio residents.
Each of their narratives included challenges that COVID posed for educational, societal, and economic opportunities. In both communities, CARES Act funding supported collaborative efforts to expand digital infrastructure, providing households and businesses with the ability to use online services to their fullest potential. Through alliances with leadership in local government both in and outside of Ohio, their leadership encourages other municipalities to explore community-based connectivity solutions.
In the words of Commissioner Lieberman, “As the world went into total isolation, home access to technology and reliable internet connections really went from being a luxury to a necessity.” , “The pandemic really showed a lot here in Fairlawn, so we were lucky we were already connected,” according to Ernie Staten. “We were already doing the work that I think everyone wants to see happen throughout all of these networks. What came out of it was that it just showed how important it was to have a really strong network and a fiber optic network where the incumbents are not doing anything like that.”