WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that ComNet, Inc. will receive a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The grant will allow the addition of nearly 700 miles of fiber optic cable construction. The project will help address the digital divide for 28 counties in Western Ohio. The initiative is estimated to create more than 300 jobs.
"Broadband expansion is critical to our economic development efforts," said Sen. Brown, who wrote to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling in support of ComNet and funding for the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium. "This project could create more than 300 jobs and provide broadband access at affordable rates."
Upon the passage of the Recovery Act, Brown hosted a day-long workshop with prospective applicants in Ohio. He brought in agency representatives to discuss the application process and to encourage local collaboration and partnerships. Brown worked with the state to form the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium, which coordinated the grant application. The consortium is a public-private partnership aimed at expanding broadband access cross the state.
Brown sponsored the Rural Broadband Act, legislation that 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 in 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.
"If we want to promote economic development throughout Ohio, we need to ensure that businesses and households have broadband access," Brown said. "Rural communities have been overlooked for far too long."