As mayor of Fairlawn, back in 2016, I had the opportunity to facilitate the creation of FairlawnGig. This community broadband utility within Fairlawn was needed to help attract and keep businesses as well as to provide reliable internet for everyone throughout our community.
Now as I step away from my position as mayor, I know this community is set up to succeed thanks to this network, which has worked and is still working to this day to provide fast, reliable internet access for everyone in Fairlawn.
Now, Summit County has formulated a plan, called Summit Connects, to create a fast, reliable internet service for the 31 local municipalities and eventually provide access to everyone throughout Summit County. The proposed 125-mile fiber-optic ring has the initial goal of assisting local governments and emergency services throughout the county.
The creation of the fiber-optic ring is funded by Summit County’s $35 million in American Recovery Plan money. It will also fund a central data center located in Fairlawn that will aid in the security of the project.
Local governments often have trouble finding and affording high-quality broadband. There are concerns about security and reliability which threaten local governments’ ability to do their day-to-day jobs that their communities rely on. This fiber-optic ring removes those concerns for local governments.,
Maybe most importantly, the innovation happening in Summit County will make our citizens safer. A major piece of the broadband infrastructure investment is to assist the emergency services throughout the county. The police, EMS and fire departments will have access to gigabit internet. The plan published by Summit County describes this best, “The ring will serve as the backbone for the public safety communications network, coupled with our countywide regional radio system.” The improvement in our county’s emergency services cannot be understated. The lack of access to networks in our more rural communities can be the difference between life and death. The internet speeds available to ensure the safety of everyone throughout the county will be seven times the national average.
After the initial connection of all 31 municipalities and the emergency services, Summit County plans to expand the network to include communities and businesses. In order to facilitate this, leaders have approved $25 million in community broadband fiber grants from the County General Capital Improvement Funds.
This is critically important as it will drive businesses to come to and stay in the county. These businesses will have access to new tools and methods of doing business. It will also benefit everyone living throughout the county by allowing them to have access to reliable internet speeds that are much faster than current availability. Some parts of the county that will be impacted have little or no access. That includes students in the county. Reliable broadband will create new learning opportunities, allowing for better communication and the ability to do more work from home which will ease the stresses of school.
Overall, the benefits of the 125-mile fiber-optic line throughout the county will aid in the development, growth and safety of everyone in the county. It will make our local governments more efficient and secure, give our emergency services the tools to keep our communities safe, and eventually give access to high-quality, reliable and affordable internet to everyone in Summit County. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2025 and although I am no longer in office, I am thrilled to see this project progress as a citizen of Summit County.
Bill Roth is the Former Mayor of Fairlawn, Ohio and Chairman of Broadband Access Ohio