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State, federal funds could mean expanded rural broadband service in NW Ohio

Published By Port Clinton News Herald on August 21, 2021
D. J. Swearingen In The News

GREEN CREEK TOWNSHIP — Sharon Drown has internet service at her home, but  not her business, Drown's Farm Market, across the street on Sandusky County Road 185.

Her sweet corn and peaches are big sellers this year.

Full tables of zucchini, yellow squash, green, red and yellow peppers sit front and center in Drown's Farm Market, as she hopes to continue what's been a good season at her rural farmer's market.

With a lot of her customers using credit or debit cards, Drown has machines to handle transactions that uses a phone dial-up line.

At home she uses the internet for things like streaming her favorite Netflix shows.

"Is it high speed? I don't need high speed," Drown said Thursday, as she took a break from waiting on customers at her market, which has been in business since 1960 for customers in Clyde, Bellevue, Tiffin, Sandusky, Castalia, Bucyrus and Green Springs.

Given her druthers, though, Drown would like affordable, high speed internet available at her home and business at what she describes as "rural Clyde."

It would be helpful, if she had affordable high speed internet at her business, to use it with her credit card machines and up the speed from 30 seconds per transaction.

As she continues running Drown's Farmer Market through Halloween, Drown plans to continue doing things the way she's done them for decades.

She knows some of her neighbors and friends on Sandusky County Road 181, about a mile away, don't have the internet access she does at her home.

Looking for internet affordability, access in the 'pockets'

Drown is hesitant about adding internet to her farmer's market because she concerned about affordability.

"I'm afraid my bill will go up, up and up," Drown said, minutes before she closed the market for the day.

More than 700,000 households, or 65% of the state's populated land mass, lack access to the Federal Communications Commission's standard internet speed of 25 megabits per upload over 3 megabits per downloads.

Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, represents the Ohio House 89th House District, which encompasses Erie and Ottawa counties.

There are pockets in his district that lack access to high speed internet, that  "last mile" where broadband providers need and want to provide service, Swearingen said.

Southern Erie County has one of those pockets.

So does part of Sandusky, as well as other parts of Swearingen's district.

"When you move over to Ottawa County, it's the same thing," Swearingen said.

As in Sandusky and Seneca counties, internet service affordability is an issue that's come up repeatedly with Swearingen as he's talked to constituents in Erie and Ottawa counties.

Swearingen said the complaints he hears are that rural internet service can be expensive and unreliable.

"Usually you get that complaint in an area with only one provider." Swearingen said Friday.

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