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

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

Map of counties targeted by the Digital Access Ohio Initiative.

Abigail Bottar

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General Media Ideastream

Digital Access Ohio Initiative targets 27 counties, as shown by this map as of January 23, 2023.

The tower is part of JobsOhio’s Ohio Digital Access Initiative, which aims to improve 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. Internet options back then in the county were dire, Grewell said.

“Our goal is to go out to the unserved and underserved areas of southern Tuscarawas County. There is no internet service,” said Grewell. “You can get satellite. You can probably get some DSL connections. We’re seeing a lot of dial up that’s hard to believe.”

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Community members clamored for the opportunity to get broadband, but Smart Way did not get much return on its investment in the community, said Grenwell.

Smart Way Communications General Manager Ryan Grewall speaks at the broadband tower activation in Dover.

Abigail Bottar

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General Media Ideastream

Smart Way Communications General Manager Ryan Grewall speaking at the broadband tower activation in Dover on January 23, 2023.

“The only thing we’re up against is critical infrastructure that doesn’t exist,” Grewell said. “We don’t have towers in place.”

That’s the case for much of rural Ohio, said Lt. Governor Jon Husted.

“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 that didn’t have access to high-speed internet, but nobody knew where it was,” Husted said.

That’s where JobsOhio’s support comes in. By offering financing and loans to the project, the agency is supporting companies that may have shied away from offering broadband in rural areas for fear of insufficient return on investment, Husted said. said.

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“We need to make an economy out of these jobs,” Husted said. “JobsOhio’s work helps the private sector make the economy of providing these internet services viable from a financial standpoint.”

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

“We’re doing this in Ohio in a more aggressive way than a lot of other states are doing it,” Husted said, “and this is going to open the door of opportunity for people here and give us a little bit more of a competitive edge.”

People and businesses have moved away from Ohio because of the lack of available broadband access, Husted said.

An Ohio Digital Access site map.

Abigail Bottar

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General Media Ideastream

Digital Access Ohio Initiative has sites for increased broadband accessibility planned throughout eastern Ohio, as shown by this map on January 23, 2023.

“Anyone who needs access to high-speed internet, a large portion of Ohio is not on the list for them, because they don’t have that access,” Husted said. “This opens up opportunities for the entire Appalachian belt that we think in the east and southeast of Ohio.”

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The initiative will also work to redress broadband inequality, Husted said.

“This creates an opportunity for underserved or underserved communities to change their economic future, because they will have a pathway to do those things in their own communities,” Husted said.

Now, businesses and households in Dover can access high-speed internet.

A sign shows the difference in speed before and after Dover's new broadband tower is activated.

Abigail Bottar

/

General Media Ideastream

The new broadband tower was activated on January 23, 2023, significantly increasing the internet speed in the area.

“According to the latest speed test for this site, the team tells me this project will increase the wireless broadband speed here from 1.4 megabits per second to 524 megabits per second,” said Husted.

This is the first step in an initiative that will take four to five years to complete.

JobsOhio’s partnership with internet company, Canton-based Agile Network, will be transformational for many rural areas in the state, CEO JP Nauseef said.
“The tower you can see on the horizon as well as many more that will be enabled by our partnership with Agile will help facilitate rapid access for thousands of Ohioans who are currently unable to participate in the modern economy,” said Nauseef.

JobsOhio provided access, financing and loans to the project, while Agile Networks built the tower and will maintain it.



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