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Butler County to bring high-speed internet to rural areas

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Butler County has selected altafiber as the company to bring high speed internet to the county’s rural areas. This infrastructure project will be funded by federal US Rescue Plans Act funds.

County administrator Judy Boyko said she was still fine-tuning her contracts with telecommunications companies, but in general, the deal will provide fast interest access to about a third of the county’s homes. offer.

She said the plan is to run fiber countywide, bringing at least 50,000 single-family and 8,000 multi-family units without service access to the internet. They maintain their subscription pricing propositions and strive to offer subscription pricing that is better than, or comparable to, those they serve in the Cincinnati area.”

With approximately 157,000 households in Butler County, and an estimated 45% lacking adequate internet access, the Commissioner has authorized a solicitation for suggestions to remedy the situation. Boyko said it has received three proposals.

ARPA’s rules and regulations have changed several times as the federal government widened the $350 billion allocated to help local governments weather the pain of the pandemic. It is one of the specifically permitted uses of funds.

Boyko previously told Journal-News that eligibility requirements require potential providers to demonstrate fast upload and download speeds and the technical expertise to handle the job. , said their financial means “must prove to be robust enough to continue” in order to provide these services. “

When commissioners held a work session in the summer of 2021 on requests to share the $74.4 million allocation of federal ARPA funds, they heard from two groups about the urgent need to get high-speed Internet access countywide. I heard.

Oxford assistant city manager Jessica Green said she spent $16,000 to buy 380 hot spots at the height of the pandemic, when students in the Tarawanda school district were forced to study remotely. She said the problem is much more widespread.

“I think this is a big issue of economic and equitable access to education, jobs, public health, and increased employment…” said Green. “It was annoying before COVID, but very important after COVID.”

Charlie Young, a former county administrator and engineering manager for the Butler Rural Electric Cooperative, was among those who wanted broadband. He submitted his $3.9 million proposal to the commissioner to partner with the Cincinnati Bell to bring high-speed internet to about 2,700 rural Butler County neighborhoods. After that, they signed another contract and they don’t need the commissioner’s money for their project.

Young told the Journal-News that he had previously tried to determine how much proper Internet service was lacking in the county using Ohio’s broadband Web site, but it wasn’t easy. His best guess is that only about 55% of people have truly reliable and fast access.

Hanover Twp. Bruce Henry, the administrator, said he doesn’t know exactly how many township residents don’t have internet access, but there are people in the township asking for help in this regard.

“I think it’s a good idea. We’ve talked about it here in Township before in the hope that something like that will happen,” Henry said. , I think residents who don’t currently have one will find it very useful.”

President Joe Biden signs $1.9 trillion American Relief Plans Act (ARPA) on March 11, 2021, allocating $350 billion to help local governments in pain caused by coronavirus pandemic Did. When the commissioners learned of the windfall, they invited other governments and organizations to pitch the project. Requests totaled over $200 million.

They raised their first round of funding totaling $52.4 million in July, allocating funds to broadband projects and donating large sums (totaling $20 million) to educational causes. Hamilton’s $5 million to Advanced Manufacturing and the University of Miami’s College @ Elm Workforce Center.

The second round of funding came in December, providing $16.1 million for city and town infrastructure projects, parks, community centers and nonprofit packages.

Commissioner Don Dixon said the project was near the top in terms of importance. This is because education drives and has long-term impact.

“This is useful for anyone using it in research or in school. Many schools are starting to teach online. It just opens up a whole new world for such uses,” Dixon said. I’m here. “I think it’s more of an educational tool than anything else.

Although Young is not involved in broadband, he is happy that the Commissioner has decided to fund it.

“COVID restrictions, stay-at-home restrictions have started to show up in our rearview mirrors, but the ability to do these things is still highly desired and coveted and will make a huge difference, especially in rural areas of Butler County.” said Young.

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