WILMINGTON — Expanding broadband coverage in Clinton County is one of the top local priorities, Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said at a recent meeting on the subject of high-speed internet.
Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) Executive Director Taylor Stuckert took part in the meeting, presenting a 27-page report on the state of broadband in Clinton County.
For the report, the RPC sought to identify gaps in broadband coverage locally, and start exploring initiatives that could help close the gaps, said Stuckert.
He agrees with McCarty on the importance of high-speed internet access. Broadband coverage is essential, Stuckert said, for residential development, for those working from home, for workforce retention, for business expansion, attraction, innovation, and commerce.
The RPC report states: “The county needs to consider the rapid change of technology and invest in long-lasting methods of broadband access, such as fiber [optics].”
The report adds, “It appears that there is extensive broadband access [in the county], however, rural residences outside of Wilmington city limits or outside of villages face dismal broadband options. Over one quarter of households still require basic access to any broadband service, and even more homes need better service.”
Locally, the primary issue involved with broadband access is the cost of installation for companies to supply broadband to rural consumers, according to the report.
“The return on investment is not as high for companies in rural areas,” the report continues.
Stuckert told commissioners that public-private partnerships have the potential to greatly impact broadband service gaps.
As for recommendations Stuckert told commissioners, “I think the main thing to do is focus on shifting our perspective — to view the internet as a utility, and access to it as essential.”
One possible action that could be taken, he said, would be creating a local broadband position that could be funded. Another idea is to have local matching funds already set aside for public-private partnerships.
A third idea is to establish at the county level a broadband commission, comprised of stakeholders who can continue the analysis of communities and create better maps regarding where broadband coverage is and is not, said Stuckert.
The Clinton County RPC executive director also said the governmental or public role in developing broadband access is to assure access, affordability, and an equitable buildup.
Taking a pro-active stance toward broadband expansion, said Stuckert, can set Clinton County apart.
“Think about the lot value when you can say ‘We’re fiber ready; we have conduit laid’,” he said.
Also attending the commissioners meeting were Jennifer Klus Ekey, who is the economic development director for Clinton County, and two men representing Bridgewired LLC, based in Waynesville. The Bridgewired network of fiber optic lines extends into Waynesville, Spring Valley, and Bellbrook.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.