2011 Review: ECO Progress, Last Mile Successes, New Initiatives & Partnerships

By Amanda Murphy

As 2011 draws to a close and the start of a new year quickly approaches, Connect Ohio would like to share the progress of its current programs over the past 12 months and exciting new partnerships and initiatives underway that are already projecting a sensational 2012.

Connect Ohio is especially enthusiastic about the new year after the announcement of the Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative in December. In conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Chesapeake Energy, Connect Ohio will administer a task force comprised of state and local stakeholders from the public and private sectors. The task force will immediately take action to overcome connectivity barriers and digital literacy gaps in the Appalachia region. Connect Ohio’s recent Technology Barriers and Adoption in Rural Appalachian Ohio report reveals rural Appalachia areas of the state face significant barriers to the opportunities that the Internet brings due to connectivity and adoption gaps.

“Bringing broadband to the unserved areas of the region will mean increased job and educational opportunities, attractiveness to new businesses, and better access to critical social resources,” said Stu Johnson, executive director. “Connect Ohio looks forward to the important work ahead in being part of the solution.”

The task force committee chairs have been appointed and will meet in January to launch the initiative.

This past year, Connect Ohio’s last-mile technical assistance team worked closely with community stakeholders and officials in 14 counties to foster expanded broadband Internet service to thousands of businesses and residences. The team creates propagation maps and business case analyses while coordinating operative relationships between broadband providers and communities seeking high-speed Internet access. In addition, Connect Ohio’s broadband inquiry process helped more than 500 Ohioans find home Internet availability through e-mail and telephone submissions. The technical assistance team continues this work into 2012 and will be a driver in the efforts of the Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative task force.

At this point, the Every Citizen Online (ECO) program, which offers free basic computer and Internet training to Ohio adults, has been operating for a full year. The program officially launched late December 2010 and runs through July 2013. Currently, 253 facilities are offering the ECO program in 68 counties throughout the state. Click here to view a map of the training locations.

By year-end, 20,000 Ohioans will have registered for ECO training through the program’s website, DRIVE, and 15,000 will have received training. A key goal of the program is to encourage technology adoption among state residents. Presently, eighty-seven percent of ECO participants say they intend to subscribe to broadband service within a year of completing the program.

“We have experienced a positive response to the Every Citizen Online program, reflecting a demand from Ohioans for basic technological education,” said Johnson. “We’re excited to provide the opportunity to meet this demand and to prepare Ohioans for our technologically driven society.”

The program’s extensive public service announcement campaign, which includes print, radio, and television, continues to increase awareness of the free training with an average of 40 million impressions monthly. Connect Ohio’s grassroots public relations efforts, which includes ECO participant testimonials and localized ECO facility outreach through press releases, blog posts, and social media updates, add an average of 619,000 additional monthly impressions through community newspaper articles and radio/TV news segments.

Connect Ohio continues to build new partnerships in an effort to strengthen the ECO program. Partnerships with state arms of national organizations are pending and may be announced very soon. These new partnerships, along with current ECO partners, including libraries, community colleges, and educational and workforce centers, will propel the ECO program to new heights in 2012 and ensure overall success for the program.

Detailed technology adoption and broadband subscription information for Ohio continues to be collected, verified, and mapped under Connect Ohio’s State Broadband Data and Development (SBDD) program. The maps are updated annually with information compiled from more than 100 broadband providers throughout the state, from Connect Ohio staff and data validation procedures, and from surveys conducted in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Connect Ohio has provided broadband mapping since 2008.

With Connect Ohio programs building momentum and the recent launch of the Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative, Connect Ohio is enthusiastic for continuing efforts toward all Ohioans obtaining access to broadband and its many valuable resources.

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