Seneca County doesn’t have equal access to the Internet, study finds

The Seneca County Broadband Study found that 83% of Seneca County’s populated area and 34% of all homes have no access to broadband Internet.

TIFFIN, Ohio — Access to high-speed internet has always been difficult for people in rural areas, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed more people online, has highlighted the problem.

Seneca County is working to ensure that its residents no longer struggle with this.

After months of collecting surveys and working with local ISPs, the Seneca County Broadband Study found that 83% of the populated area and 34% of all homes in the county lack broadband Internet access.

The study also shows that one-third of college students in the county don’t have equal access to online resources.

This limits what types of businesses can be brought into the local economy, said Aaron Montz, CEO and president of Tiffin Seneca Economic Partnership.

“It’s difficult to get a company, especially a technology-based company or one that really requires a lot of bandwidth, to locate in one of these rural areas because they don’t have the capacity,” he said.

The law firm of Ice Miller LLP, in conjunction with the North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments, presented the study results and outlined possible solutions for the Seneca County Rural Broadband Task Force to implement.

Options include: incentives for fiber-optic expansion, allowing telecom companies to use the county’s existing infrastructure to keep costs down, and establishing a point-to-point wireless broadband network.

And the completed study should help the county be a frontrunner for potential federal and state funding for these upgrades by showing just how many public and private groups are involved.

“I think they are ahead of the curve compared to many jurisdictions and many counties and will enable them to be more in the driver’s seat to be a significant player in these opportunities at the federal and state level,” said Chris Miller, partner at Ice Miller.

The task force will meet again soon and look for solutions that work best for the Seneca County community.

“The state, the government, loves working together between public and private partnerships and working with our universities,” said Tony Paradiso, Seneca County Commissioner. “And I think we have, and that’s why we’re pretty excited.”

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