Available Wi-Fi Keeps Meigs County Firefighters Trained and Working

By Amanda Murphy

Many areas of Ohio are still in the midst of the digital divide – and emergency services personnel are no exception.

A volunteer fire department in Bashan, Ohio felt the brunt of the divide when firefighters began losing their certification.

“Three lost their fire certification because they had no Internet here and the certification had to be completed online,” said Luck McDaniel, a Bashan volunteer firefighter.

Though the fire station housed one computer and had dial-up Internet access, McDaniel said the Internet capabilities were “not functional, wouldn’t download and took forever”. He approached the Wireless Internet Service Provider for the area, New Era Broadband, for any possible solutions.

David Hannum, with New Era Broadband, LLC, explained Bashan’s predicament.

“Point-to-Multipoint [Wireless Connectivity] has limitations due to terrain and foliage. You cannot get the signal over or around hills and into hollows directly most of the time,” he said.

Bashan is located in a low-lying area surrounded by elevated forest terrain.

New Era Broadband found a cost effective way to relay the Wi-Fi signal from one of their Access Point’s to a siren tower, then directly to a receiver atop the fire department’s building. With the help of Bart Winegar, Technical Outreach Manager for Connect Ohio, a partial grant provided by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, the Meigs County Community Investment Corporation and New Era Broadband, the Bashan Volunteer Fire Department now has free broadband service.

“Now we can communicate with the State. Our firefighters are in compliance and staying in touch,” said McDaniel.

Winegar said, “This is an example of how a community can come together in a private/public collaboration to solve last-mile broadband issues.”

The relay system also offers high-speed Internet access to nearby residences. New Era Broadband can currently serve ten homes within 1000 feet of the siren tower. The company is planning some upgrades, which would increase that number to thirty.

New Era Broadband is also using the Bashan relay method as a pilot for other parts of their coverage area.

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