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Blog // Connect Ohio

Businesses, Families, Schools to Benefit From Wyandot County Technology Action Plan

By Jessica Denson

From employers who want more tech-savvy workers to students who need online access to complete their homework, Wyandot County is a community in need of better broadband (high-speed internet) access. Connected Nation (CN), through its Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm), and in partnership with local groups, has come up with a set of solutions that can help bring that access to more families and businesses.

“Our world depends on technology, and agricultural, and rural communities are no less important. They depend on reliable data transmission, and I believe the Wyandot County has taken a step forward in identifying and assessing our needs for the future,” Kathy Grasz, CEO and President of the Wyandot Chamber of Commerce, said.

The community-specific Technology Action Plan (TAP) was developed following a countywide study that looked at access, adoption, and use of the internet. Area businesses, residents, schools, libraries, and other stakeholders were surveyed to more accurately identify where there are gaps in coverage and what can be done to improve internet access for everyone.

“The Connected Community Engagement Program has led Wyandot County to a better understanding of its local broadband infrastructure than ever before,” Greg Moon, Executive Director of Wyandot County Office of Economic Development, said. “With the detailed information garnered from the program and aggregated in the Technology Action Plan, Wyandot County stakeholders now have the information to justify where efforts can be made to better enhance broadband availability and adaptability among residents and local businesses.

“The results of our in-depth analysis in Wyandot County identified the geographic and demographic trends perpetuating the digital divide, including significant coverage gaps leaving more than 3,000 households without minimum internet accessibility,” Stu Johnson, Executive Director of Connect Ohio, the local subsidiary of CN, said. “Of those who can and do subscribe to service, 59% report that they are dissatisfied with their connection, generally suggesting that the speed is not adequate to meet their needs. Cost barriers are particularly concentrated within lower income households where 27% have service available but do not subscribe.”

Connected Nation also helped the community identify which internet service providers (ISPs) cover Wyandot County and the speeds available to residents and businesses. It turns out there are 13 ISPs in the county, yet the local libraries only have speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) or slower and residents had speeds as slow as 10 Mbps. Twenty-five Mbps is the minimum speed defining ‘advanced broadband’ by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“While Wyandot County boasts multiple broadband providers and platforms, they’re simply unable to keep pace with the insatiable demand, despite continued significant infrastructure investment,” Johnson explained.

That demand includes a need to support local students, small businesses in the area, and families who work from home. During the surveys, Connected Nation found that one-third of area residents telework with some frequency and that 75% of K-12 curriculum is delivered using some sort of web-enabled technology, meaning the students are often asked to access the internet to complete homework and other classroom tasks. Area business owners report that they need more employees who have internet access to improve their tech skills; 72.1% believe that on-going technology training for employees is moderately or very important, and 81.4% require or encourage continuing education for employees.

“We believe everyone belongs in a Connected Nation,” Johnson said. “To not have access means that children, families, small business owners, farmers, and others are being left out of opportunities to improve their lives and livelihoods. All of us at Connected Nation believe that to fix that problem we must first identify the gaps and understand the landscape of a community. We then look for ways to change that landscape and bring access to more people so they have the educational, economic, and social opportunities the digital world provides.”

Solutions to the Problem of Not Enough Access
“Following our surveys in any community, our Connectedsm team takes the data and does a structured evaluation of what we learned,” Tom Stephenson, Community Technology Advisory for Connected Nation, said. “The more input we get, the better we can identify ways to create access, adoption, and use of broadband for everyone. We then come up with a series of recommendations for that community. The local stakeholders, who we call ‘community champions,’ then decide which ones they would like to make a priority in the short- and long-term for their community. Not only do we look at the current landscape, but we examine the barriers to adoption and potential solutions and plans for removing those barriers.”

For Wyandot County, Connected Nation made seven recommendations (listed on page 57 in the below report) to improve access to, among others, its residents, businesses, schools, and libraries. The community team identified the following four recommendations as priority:

1.    Develop public-private partnership to deploy broadband service

2.    Perform a broadband build-out analysis

3.    Expand public computer access

4.    Host website and social media classes for local businesses

Click here to read Wyandot County’s entire Technology Action Plan, which includes further data on the broadband landscape of the county.

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Connected Nation is a leading technology organization committed to bringing affordable high-speed internet and broadband-enabled resources to all Americans so no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide. We believe everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. For more information, please visit: www.connectednation.org or follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Contact: Jessica Denson, Communications Mgr.          
Email: jdenson@connectednation.org                                  
Phone number: 502-341-2024
Website: www.connectednation.org

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