By COH Staff
Earlier this week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced more than $100 million in Community Connect grant funds were being awarded for 23 broadband projects throughout the country. The Community Connect program provides funding for broadband access to residents in remote areas and low-income communities. Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc., a broadband provider based in Chicago, was awarded $570, 800 of the $100 million for a project in rural Stafford, Ohio.
Stafford is a village located in Monroe County with a population of less than 100 people, according to 2010 census information. Connect Ohio’s residential technology assessment research reveals 74% of Monroe County residents have access to the Internet and just 53% subscribe to home broadband service. Both statistics are below current statewide averages, but a significant increase from 2008 reports.
According to Jennifer Stephens, administrative manager for Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc., the Stafford project will provide residents with a local community center fully equipped with computers and high-speed wireless Internet for free use for at least two years. This will also include basic computer and Internet training classes, as interest demands, and detailed instruction on how to sign up for and use Wi-Fi. Schools and some government buildings will also be receiving free Wi-Fi access.
A 140-foot tower will be constructed within Stafford’s city limits to house the wireless Internet signal, which can then be shared with homes interested in paying for Internet service within a 6- to 15-mile radius. The construction of a tower is significant not only for Wi-Fi access to local residents, but because it can be used to improve emergency communications, cell phone coverage, and more throughout the Stafford and Monroe County area.
Stephens said the project is expected to create 11 full-time jobs, as well as some part-time contracting jobs.
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. was also granted funding for projects in Heidelberg, Kentucky, Yellow Rock, Kentucky, and Panther, West Virginia.
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