Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative Commences with Inaugural Task Force Meeting

By Amanda Murphy

In December, the Governor’s Office of Appalachia in conjunction with Connect Ohio announced the launch of a special initiative to address the broadband divide facing rural Appalachia.

Thursday, January 19, a task force comprised of state and local stakeholders conducted its first meeting and committed to help the region overcome connectivity barriers and digital literacy gaps.

The Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative (CABI) Task Force intends to pull Appalachia Ohio to within state and national standards in broadband adoption within 24 months by responding to requests for assistance from community leaders, private industry, Internet providers, public agencies, and others on broadband projects. The task force will identify and coordinate resources required to facilitate availability of affordable broadband access and drive adoption through equipment procurement assistance and free basic computer training.

The task force is administered by Connect Ohio and co-chaired by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Chesapeake Energy. Task force committees have been selected and chairpersons have been appointed.

“Connect Ohio is honored to be an integral part of this initiative and its vital mission,” said Connect Ohio Executive Director Stu Johnson. “We have assembled a terrific team of committee chairs that will be actively seeking members to further expand the expertise, influence, and resources necessary to execute our goals and improve the lives and livelihoods of thousands of disconnected Ohioans.”

“I am happy to co-chair the Connect Appalachia Broadband Task Force,” said Jason Wilson, Director of Governor’s Office of Appalachia. “Following the mission of the Appalachian Regional Commission and Governor’s Office of Appalachia, I believe the task force’s work will improve the lives of Ohioans living in Ohio’s Appalachian counties.”

Below is a list of task force committees and chairpersons.


Jason Wilson, Director, Governor’s Office on Appalachia

Keith Fuller, Director of Corporate Development, Chesapeake Energy

Stu Johnson, Executive Director, Connect Ohio

Project Manager

Bart Winegar, Technical Outreach Manager, Connect Ohio

Committees and Committee Chairs

Public Agencies

Katrina Flory, Executive Administrator, Ohio Office of Information Technology

Marianne Townsend, Chief, Telecommunications, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

Community Leaders – Tom Wheaton, Carroll County Commissioner

Education – Joy Padgett, Director of Government Relations and Grants, Central Ohio Technical College

Finance – David Nadler, SVP / Chief Risk Officer, Ohio Valley Bank

Non-Profit – Cara Dingus Brook, President/CEO, The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio


Ken Engstrom, Fiber Sales Manager, Horizon Telecom

Ed Kozelek, Regional VP of Government Affairs, Time Warner Cable – CABLE Internet Service Provider

David Weddell, CEO, Cueband – Wireless Internet Service Provider

Dave Davidson, SVP/GM of Ohio, Frontier Communications – Local Exchange Carrier

The failure to connect has significant implications on the region’s ability to keep up with the demands of the digital economy. According to Connect Ohio’s Technology Barriers and Adoption in Rural Appalachian Ohio report:

  • 531,000 adults in rural Appalachia do not have home broadband – 124,000 report that service is either unavailable, or the speeds are insufficient in meeting their needs
  • One in three children in rural Appalachian Ohio does not have broadband service at home
  • One out of three households do not have a home computer in the Appalachian region.

For more information about the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, visit

For more information about Chesapeake Energy, visit

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