OneCommunity awarded $44.8 million to expand broadband infrastructure in 20 counties


Nonprofit OneCommunity will receive a $44.8 million stimulus grant that will fund 64% of a nearly $70 million fiber construction project targeting Northeast Ohio. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce\’s Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) program, will add nearly 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable to OneCommunity\’s high-speed broadband network, enlarging its total footprint to 27 counties, and creating nearly 500 jobs.

The OneCommunity \”middle-mile\” fiber project will create a broadband superhighway for robust and affordable connectivity services through an open and provider-neutral network infrastructure. This means the high-speed network will be available for use by all of the region\’s carriers, cable operators and private networks at reasonable rates and terms, allowing them to better serve business and residential customers. OneCommunity also will leverage this great regional asset to provide robust, affordable broadband services to public interest subscribers, called community anchor institutions.

The network will improve access to critical, 21st century services for thousands of schools, higher education institutions, hospitals, libraries, governments and public safety facilities along the fiber route. An estimated 800 institutions will become subscribers as segments of the network become active over a 30-month period beginning in 2011. These anchors – many of which do not have access or cannot afford these services today – will be able to deliver enhanced education, health care and citizen services to millions of residents.

Key partners in this ambitious regional initiative include Lorain County Community College, Medina County Port Authority, and the Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet), which is Ohio\’s research and education broadband network provider. All partners are contributing matching resources to cover additional project costs. The initiative is scheduled to kick off in fall 2010, with construction beginning the first quarter of 2011, and completion expected in segments through summer 2013.

OneCommunity\’s application was one of three tightly integrated proposals totaling $141 million in requested federal funds submitted under the umbrella of the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium (OMMC).  The consortium was formed to maximize the opportunities for the State of Ohio to create a single, unified and seamless broadband backbone for the entire state and its citizenry. All the lead applicants for the OMMC – OneCommunity (Northeast Ohio), Horizon Telcom (Appalachian Ohio) and Com Net (Western Ohio) – working in close collaboration with OARnet and other state agencies, have received awards through the CCI program. The OMMC was formed with the strong leadership and support of Sen. Sherrod Brown, Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.

\”Broadband expansion is critical to our economic development efforts in Northeast Ohio,\” said Brown, who wrote to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling in support of the funding. \”These funds will enable the project to pass more than two million households and 210,000 businesses, while creating nearly 500 jobs in Northeast Ohio. An investment in broadband will provide the middle-mile infrastructure necessary to accelerate economic development throughout the industrial region.\”

\”The public-private partnership created by the Ohio Middle Mile Consortium is a great example of our efforts to lay a foundation for long-term economic progress,\” said Strickland. \”These resources will be quickly put to work to improve the quality of our education, health and public safety services – but more importantly, create jobs for Ohioans.\”

\”The success of tomorrow\’s workforce is forged by the availability and quality of Ohio\’s academic resources,\” said Fingerhut. \”The ability to extend the State of Ohio\’s academic and research network to all 88 counties through the work of this consortium is a tremendous achievement.\”

OneCommunity\’s total network footprint will serve: Ashland, Ashtabula, Crawford, Columbiana, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Erie, Franklin, Geauga, Holmes, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Marion, Medina, Morrow, Ottawa, Portage, Richland, Sandusky, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.

\”Together, we have created a truly unique, open, statewide fiber network that will serve the needs of our local community providers and bring high-speed broadband services to all Ohioans – ensuring we have the ability to compete in the global economy,\” said Scot Rourke, President and CEO of OneCommunity. \”This project will position Ohio as a national leader in deployed broadband infrastructure, opening the door for the attraction of significant outside corporate investment and local community benefit. Once completed, Ohio will possess a unique environment for the design, development, testing and deployment of advanced e-government, telemedicine, biotech and 21st-century learning applications.\”

OneCommunity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the adoption of information technologies to drive economic development in Northern Ohio. OneCommunity connects more than 1,000 public and nonprofit sites via its regional fiber-optic broadband network, one of the fastest open networks in the world. The organization works with public- and private-sector partners to lead innovative programs in health care, education, workforce, government and economic development.

Funders of OneCommunity\’s regional stimulus-seeking efforts (which also yielded nearly $19 million to OneCommunity and partner agencies prior to this award), include The Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, Arminius Foundation, Case Western Reserve University, Generation Foundation, PNC Bank, The Fred A. Lennon Charitable Trust and The Raymond John Wean Foundation.

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