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Dover gets new broadband tower as part of statewide expansion of internet access

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted speaking at the activation of a broadband tower in Dover.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted spoke at the activation of the broadband tower in Dover on Jan. 23, 2023.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was in Dover Monday for the activation of a broadband tower. The tower is expected to provide a connection to the internet to more than 2,000 households.

A map of the counties the Digital Access Ohio Initiative is targeting.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
The Digital Access Ohio Initiative is targeting 27 counties, as shown by this map on Jan. 23, 2023.

The tower is part of JobsOhio’s Digital Access Ohio Initiative, which aims to increase broadband access in 27 counties, many of which are rural.

Ryan Grewell is the general manager of Smart Way Communications, a local internet provider and partner in the initiative. Smart Way began offering internet to rural areas in Tuscarawas County in 2014. The internet options back then in the county were grim, Grewell said.

"Our goal was to go out to the unserved and underserved areas of southern Tuscarawas County. There was no internet service," Grewell said. "You could get satellite. You could maybe get a couple DSL connections. We saw a lot of dial up which was hard to believe."

Community members clamored at the chance to get broadband, but Smart Way wasn't getting a lot of return on its investments in the community, Grenwell said.

Smart Way Communications General Manager Ryan Grewall speaks at broadband tower activation in Dover.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Smart Way Communications General Manager Ryan Grewall speaks at the broadband tower activation in Dover on Jan. 23, 2023.

“The only thing we were running up against was the critical infrastructure it just wasn’t there," Grewell said. "We did not have the towers in place.”

That was the case for a lot of rural areas in Ohio, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.

"When Gov. [Mike] DeWine and I took office, it was very clear that we didn't have a strategy, that we had a million people or so that didn't have access to high speed internet, but nobody really knew where that was," Husted said.

That’s where the support of JobsOhio comes in. By offering financing and loans to the project, the agency is supporting companies who may have been shying away from offering broadband in rural areas due to fear of not getting enough of a return in their investment, Husted said.

"We have to make the economics of this work," Husted said. "JobsOhio's work helps the private sector make the economics of supplying these internet services viable from a financial point of view."

This initiative will make Ohio more economically competitive, Husted said.

“We are doing this in Ohio on a more aggressive way than a lot of other states are doing it," Husted said, "and this is going to open up doors of opportunity to the people here and give us a little bit more of a competitive advantage.”

People and businesses are turned away from Ohio due to the lack of available broadband access, Husted said.

A map of Digital Access Ohio sites.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
The Digital Access Ohio Initiative has sites for increased broadband accessibility planned across eastern Ohio, as shown by this map on Jan. 23, 2023.

"Anybody that needs access to high speed internet, big portions of Ohio are not on the list for them, because they don't have that access," Husted said. "This opens up opportunities to that whole Appalachian belt that we think of in eastern and southeastern Ohio."

This initiative will also work to fix broadband inequities, Husted said.

"This is creating opportunities for unserved or underserved communities to change their economic future, because they will have the pathways to do those kinds of things in their own community," Husted said.

Now, businesses and households in Dover are able to access fast internet.

A sign shows the difference in speed before and after Dover's new broadband tower was activated.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
The new broadband tower activated on Jan. 23, 2023, greatly increases internet speed in the region.

"According to the recent speed tests for this site, the team tells me this project will increase wireless broadband speed here from 1.4 megabits per second to 524 megabits per second," Husted said.

This is just the first step in the initiative which will take four to five years to complete.

JobsOhio's partnership with the internet company, Canton-based Agile Networks, will be transformational to many rural areas in the state, CEO JP Nauseef said.
“The tower that you can see on the horizon as well as many more that will be activated through our partnership with Agile will help facilitate high speed access for thousands of Ohioans who cannot currently participate in accessing the modern economy," Nauseef said.

JobsOhio is providing access, financing and loans to the project, while Agile Networks is building the towers and will maintain them.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.