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Recent News // Students, Seniors, Families to Benefit From Fairfield County Technology Action Plan

Thursday, July 27, 2017

From employers who want more tech-savvy workers to families and seniors being left out of a digital world, Fairfield 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 leaders, has come up with a set of solutions that can help bring that access to more families and businesses.

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.

“Our in-depth analysis in Fairfield County identified the geographic and demographic trends perpetuating the digital divide, including significant coverage gaps leaving more than 15,000 households without internet accessibility,” Stu Johnson, Executive Director of Connect Ohio, the local subsidiary of CN, said. “Nearly 55% of those who do subscribe report that they are dissatisfied with their connection, generally suggesting that the speed is not adequate to meet their needs.”

Connected Nation also helped the community identify which internet service providers (ISPs) cover Fairfield County and the speeds they provide. It turns out there are eight ISPs in the county, yet more than 25,000 households (47% of the county) don’t have access to fixed broadband. That can be challenging when it comes to getting or keeping a job. A majority of local employers (82.3%) require or encourage continuing education for employees, much of which can be found online, yet they report that only 16.8% of community employees have the necessary advanced technology skills.

The study identified several key areas in the make-up of broadband in the county and the need for expansion. Those include:

·         55% of internet-connected households are dissatisfied with their current service;

·         62% of agricultural operations in the county use the Internet weekly to conduct market research, but nearly two-thirds of agriculture operations have internet service with download speeds below 10 Mbps (by comparison, the FCC minimum for “advanced broadband” is 25 Mbps);

·         Fairfield County schools report that more than two-thirds of their educational content is now delivered to students using internet-enabled devices, highlighting the importance for students to have access to the internet both at school and at home;

In addition, the community-specific study found that the groups struggling the most with home broadband adoption in Fairfield County are households earning less than $35,000 per year, adults with a high school diploma or less, and adults aged 50 to 64.

“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.”

Connected Nation made 13 recommendations (listed on page 63 in the report) to improve internet access to Fairfield County residents, businesses, schools, libraries, and other institutions. The local community team identified the following five recommendations as short- and long-term priority for the county:

1.    Explore Public-Private Partnerships to Deploy Broadband Service

2.    Expand Access to More Publicly Available Internet-Connected Computers in Libraries, Public Facilities, etc.

3.    Promote Low-Cost Broadband Service Offerings for Vulnerable Populations (e.g., Spectrum Internet Assist, AT&T Access, Comcast Internet Essentials)

4.    Perform a Broadband Build-Out Analysis and Validate Demand for Broadband Service in Underserved Areas

5.    Perform an Analysis of Local Policies and Ordinances That May Hinder Broadband Deployment and Make Necessary Changes

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

MEDIA CONTACT:
Jessica Denson, Communications Manager
(502) 341-2024
jdenson@connectednation.org

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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. The Connected Community Engagement Program works with local communities to identify the challenges and solutions to broadband expansion.

We believe everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. For more information, please visit: www.connectednation.org or follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.