Sen. Brown Urges Commerce Sec. Locke to Support Ohio Broadband Projects

Ohio Middle Mile Consortium Would Expand Broadband Access to Un-served and Underserved Communities in Ohio

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in support of the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium (OMMC) for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"If we want to promote economic development throughout Ohio, we need to ensure that all households can access the tools they need to become broadband proficient," Brown said. "With these funds, the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium (OMMC) would stimulate economic growth and improve the competitiveness of Ohio communities in underserved areas. We have an obligation to level the playing field for Ohio's workforce - it's an investment in the future of our state."

The OMMC is made up of three proposals that target broadband expansion throughout the state of Ohio.  Together, the Connecting Appalachian Ohio, the Transforming NE Ohio: From Rust Belt to Tech Powerhouse, and the GigEPAC – GigPlus Availability Coalition proposals are designed to provide service to an estimated 3.6 million households, more than 534,000 businesses, and nearly 6,000 anchor institutions.  The proposals aim to create more than 1,500 jobs in Ohio.

Brown sponsored the Rural Broadband Act 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. 

Upon passage of the Recovery Act, Brown convened a day long workshop among potential broadband applicants and brought U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager to Ohio to discuss the application process and encourage local collaboration and partnerships.

“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 too long.”

Below is the full text of the letter:


June 15, 2010

The Honorable Gary Locke
Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C.  20230

Dear Secretary Locke:

As the National Telecommunications Information Administration considers Round 2 applications for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) as funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it is my pleasure to strongly support the “Ohio Middle Mile Consortium” (OMMC).    

The OMMC consists of three proposals that target middle mile expansion throughout the state of Ohio.  While each proposal stands on its own merits, the collaborative effort is designed to provide service to an estimated 3.6 million households, more than 534,000 businesses, and nearly 6,000 anchor institutions.  The collaborative proposal also aims to create more than 1,500 jobs in an economic climate and region of the country where such job creation is crucial.

The proposals included in the collaborative effort are: 1) Connecting Appalachian Ohio (ID#6233), 2) Transforming NE Ohio: From Rust Belt to Tech Powerhouse (ID# 4395), and GigEPAC – GigPLUS Availability Coalition (ID# 7296).

Connecting Appalachian Ohio is led by Horizon Telecom and involves the expansion of middle mile broadband coverage throughout 34 counties in Appalachia.  It is my understanding that 31 of these counties qualify as underserved and are considered to be economically distressed. Thirteen counties have unemployment rates at least 3.5% above the national average.  The proposal has unwavering support in the Appalachian region from all sectors.

 If awarded funding, Connecting Appalachian Ohio will not only bring technological advancement in a region that has suffered from inadequate broadband service, but will create more than 700 direct, indirect, and induced jobs while also providing critical educational, infrastructure, and economic development resources to rural Ohioans.  The project represents an unprecedented level of cooperation that will lay the foundation for economic growth in the Appalachian region for many years to come.    

Transforming NE Ohio: From Rust Belt to Tech Powerhouse is led by One Community and involves the expansion of broadband services throughout 20 counties in Northeast Ohio, a region that has been severely impacted by the economic challenges that face our nation’s automotive and manufacturing sectors.  The project would pass more than 2 million households and 210,000 businesses, while creating nearly 500 jobs in Northeast Ohio.  An investment in broadband infrastructure will provide a backbone to accelerate economic development in the industrial region.  

GigEPAC, led by Com Net Inc. proposes a public-private partnership among three existing network providers to address the lack of adequate broadband service for rural communities throughout 28 counties in Western Ohio.  Twenty three counties in the region have a child poverty rate of 10% or worse and 21 counties have been adversely affected by automotive restructuring.  It is my understanding that if awarded funding the project would create more than 300 direct, indirect, and induced jobs and provide affordable rates for more than 30,000 un-served households by constructing more than 700 miles of fiber optic cable.      
  
 All three proposals have a large amount of support in Ohio, and represent an unprecedented collaborative effort in the spirit of 1) obtaining adequate broadband service in the state; 2) creating critically needed jobs; and 3) strengthening Ohio’s technological platform to unleash widespread, sustainable economic development.

The OMMC holds tremendous promise for our state and for the future of broadband connectivity, and I urge the NTIA to give it serious consideration.

Thank you for your continued efforts to support broadband infrastructure in America.

                                                                                    Sincerely,

                                                                                   
                                                                                    Sherrod Brown
                                                                                    United States Senator

Cc: Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

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