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One Year Later, Dozens of Communities Connected


This month marks one year since Charlevoix County, MI became the first Connected certified community in the country. We’ve commemorated the event in style by celebrating the country’s ninth Connected community – Van Wert County, OH.

A rural county located on the southern edge of northwest Ohio’s rich agricultural region, Van Wert County has a large number of residents employed in the agricultural industry, and while the cost of living is low, the county has lost more than 5% of its population since 1990. With a shrinking populace, community leaders have been working harder than ever to do more with less.

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Led by Kim Brandt, Van Wert County’s 911 coordinator, and supported by local residents representing the local Chamber of Commerce, secondary and vocational education institutions, county and city government, and the local hospital, participation in the Connected program was driven by a desire to improve existing fiber infrastructure to deliver better quality and more cost-effective services within tight budgetary constraints.

“The Connect Ohio office has been very beneficial for Van Wert County in bringing city and county officials together to create goals that will and have benefited residents and visitors of Van Wert County,” said Brandt. “With the help of Connect Ohio, officials from the City of Van Wert, Van Wert County, Van Wert City Schools, and 911 have worked together to connect buildings and improve services with fiber. The work we have completed together this year will continue to cut down on city and county bills, which in turn saves taxpayer dollars.”

Van Wert County has been awarded Connected certification for measurably demonstrated proficiency for effective access, adoption, and use of broadband and broadband-supported technologies. Priority actions identified in the Van Wert County Technology Action Plan include:

  • Completing a county and city fiber loop

  • Hiring a County Information Technology Manager

  • Implementing a countywide GIS system

The community already has a good start; among the community’s many efforts:

  • Access: Initial meetings for completing the county and city fiber loop have already begun. According to Brandt, “Currently, our Connected team is working with a private company to build back-up fiber to benefit 911 and all other agencies connected to the fiber. The goal of this build beyond redundant fiber is greatly reduced cost for phone services for city and county buildings. The end result will be improved services for residents and continued savings for residents.”

  • Adoption: With a strong vocational school in the Vantage Career Center, the Van Wert community has been able to educate more than 200 residents to become digitally literate in the past year. Other community agencies, including the Council on Aging and the Veterans Services Office, also provide training opportunities and access to computers for their clients.

  • Use: According to Brandt, “Video arraignments are now held at Municipal Court, which saves the need for officers to transport prisoners to court and sit with them during the proceedings, then transport them back to jail. It cut out the violent acts that have happened in the court in the past.”

The Connected Community Engagement Program was designed for community leaders - those who have a vision for their community beyond the digital divide – and provides the data and framework to make informed choices for moving residents, businesses, and institutions beyond the digital divide. Today, more than 200 communities have been engaged across the United States, driven by a desire to effectively accelerate local broadband access and adoption, and a vision for what innovative broadband utilization will enable.

For more information on how your community can get Connected – contact Travis Lane at

To learn how other communities have benefited from the Connected program – check out our these videos:

  • “I though the assessment process was thorough ... It gave us an opportunity to bring folks that had different pieces of the puzzle together.” Watch the video and learn how Charlevoix County got Connected.

  • “We were looking at moving from the Abbeville area because we could not support our customers,” Watch the video and learn how this Greenwood County got Connected.