Published by The Columbus Dispatch on March 11, 2019
By Sheridan Hendrix
ZANESVILLE, OH. — When Jay Bennett returned to Zanesville in 2014 to take over as the city’s public-service director, he found an external hard drive sitting on his new desk.
None of the office’s computers was connected to a shared network, so the hard drive was used to back up his files and share them with others.
Bennett had spent more than a decade working in private- and public-sector development jobs in the Pacific Northwest. Experiencing fast internet speeds at his rural home in Eugene, Oregon, and seeing the beginnings of smart cities and the footprint of Google in Seattle showed Bennett that communities there made technology a priority.
That was not the case in his Muskingum County hometown.
“The city had not advanced since I left in 2001,” Bennett said. “It was like time had stood still while the technology sped forward.”
And Zanesville’s lack of technological investment was starting to pose a problem, Bennett said. New businesses weren’t setting up downtown because of its slow internet speeds, and poor connections turned some visitors away.
“We need to make city government accessible to the public, but also to help the community understand the urgency around broadband,” Bennett said.
He knew change was needed, and with the help of local and federal funds, he said, downtown Zanesville could have a new high-speed broadband network sometime this year.
City officials selected CompuCorp, a Columbus-based information-technology consultant, to help build and operate a network. Fiber-optic cables, which promise fast internet speeds, will be installed in downtown Zanesville. In addition, Wi-Fi access points will be placed at nearly every intersection to create a public wireless network for visitors.
The city will own the fiber-optic cables and infrastructure, which will run in Zanesville’s four government buildings, and CompuCorp will manage the network. Downtown businesses will have the option to buy into the network for their internet service.
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