Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ohio Award of $1.8 Million for broadband mapping project will show, help close gaps in IT coverage

December 23, 2:29 PMColumbus Government ExaminerJohn Michael Spinelli
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The announcement of the award by Gov. Ted Strickland that Ohio will receive $1.8 million for a broadband mapping project is good news, because when the data is collected and the map is drawn, it will show just how far, when compared to other states or countries, Ohio is behind the curve of deploying broadband connectivity technology to its citizens and business community.

Strickland administration works to close IT gaps

Prepared remarks from Strickland's office said stimulus funding from the Recovery Act Washington passed earlier this year will again be the source of cash to finance this project. Development of important state infrastructure projects, like the expansion of information technology infrastructure sufficiently that all citizens and business have access to it, is a must if Ohio is to be ahead of and not behind the technology curve other states and even countries have vaulted with success, enabling them to be future competitive.

The award is to help implement the Strickland Administration’s plan to compile and map broadband availability in Ohio, including location, available speed and type of technology delivering the service, said a media release.

Strickland said Connect Ohio was created in 2008 to determine "where Ohio’s broadband infrastructure exists – and where it doesn’t exist – to better target the investments that will help us reach our goal of providing broadband access to all Ohioans.” He said the grant will accelerate efforts to expand economic and educational opportunities to more Ohioans.

The guts of the project will increase broadband access and adoption through better data collection and broadband planning. The data collected is to be displayed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s national broadband map, a tool the announcement said will "inform policymakers' efforts and provide consumers with improved information on the broadband Internet services available to them."

Two years and one week ago, Strickland, who had just finishing his first year on the job, launched the public-private partnership known as Connect Ohio, whose mission was to expand broadband services across the state by working with local communities and providers to map gaps in access.

At the time, Strickland said this on the goal of Connect Ohio: "The digital divide in Ohio takes many forms – from lack of access to computers and broadband services to a lack of technological skills necessary for the jobs of the future,” Strickland said. “The goal of Connect Ohio is to create customized support for local communities to meet their individual technological needs while helping expand broadband service to all residents and businesses

Strickland said partnering with "cable and telecommunications industries and their workers to build demand for their services and deploy broadband to areas of the state that are currently underserved” was worth the $6.8, paid out over four years or two bienniums, needed to run Connect Ohio.

Program administration falls to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, working in collaboration with Connect Ohio.

“We are pleased to be working with the Strickland Administration to help create and enhance a comprehensive broadband map in the state of Ohio, and we’re particularly pleased to provide continuing broadband planning efforts to local communities across the state,” said Tom Fritz, executive director of Connect Ohio. He applauded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for "working diligently to create a national broadband map and are honored to continue the work in Ohio to provide tools that will enable economic, social, and educational benefits to residents and businesses across the state.”

Since 2008, Strickland's office noted that Connect Ohio has benchmarked Ohio’s broadband availability and usage through the use of surveys and data gathered through its relationships with broadband providers across the state. It's detailed information is available at a statewide and county level for businesses and residents regarding broadband availability, access, subscribership, barriers to adoption, computer ownership and average subscriber rates.

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