WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that federal resources have been awarded to connect a Monroe County community with broadband services through the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect program. Crystal Broadband Network, Inc. will contract with a national Internet service provider to connect Stafford Village residents, local businesses, and area schools to wireless, high-speed Internet.
“If we want to promote economic development throughout Ohio, we need to ensure that businesses and households have broadband access,” Brown said. “Broadband bridges the digital gap that too often disadvantages rural Ohio.”
According to the USDA, the area lacks reliable Internet service. But with the grant, the community’s fire and rescue personnel will have the ability to receive virtual real-time warnings to improve response time to emergencies.
Brown is working to connect Ohio’s rural areas and small towns to broadband. Last year, Brown helped secure funding for a project that will expand access to broadband for 34 counties in Appalachia. The project would deploy more than 1,900 miles of fiber optic network to connect nearly 600 community anchors. In June 2010, Brown wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in support of the OMMC for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. After the Connecting Appalachia application was denied in the first round of consideration, Brown’s office convened a roundtable of stakeholders in preparation for the second round. In March 2010, Brown also wrote to National Telecommunications and Information Administration Assistant Secretary Strickling in support of the OMMC Connecting Appalachia application.
Before the Recovery Act was passed, Brown was integral in bringing together business and community leaders to coordinate a strategy for expansion of broadband. In March 2008, Brown’s office hosted a forum in Zanesville where stakeholders throughout Appalachian Ohio spoke to the importance of expanding broadband.
Brown sponsored the Rural Broadband Act, legislation which would establish a federal Office of Broadband Initiatives dedicated to creating a comprehensive rural broadband strategic vision and increasing access to the Internet in rural parts of the United States. Brown also authored an amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase USDA funding for broadband. The amendment directed $2.5 billion through the USDA to target rural and underserved communities.
Upon passage of the Recovery Act, Brown convened a day long workshop among potential broadband applicants and brought USDA Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager to Ohio to discuss the application process and encourage local collaboration and partnerships.
The Community Connect program provides grants to rural, economically challenged communities. Funds can be used to construct, acquire or lease facilities to deploy broadband to community facilities such as schools and public safety buildings, as well as residents and businesses in the community. Each project requires a matching contribution and must serve an area where broadband is not available. The grantee must agree to provide local community centers in the selected towns with at least 10 computers which are accessible free for two years. USDA funding for all loans and grants is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.