Internet access technical grant obtained for Mahoning homes, offices

By Peter H. Milliken


Broader wireless internet access is the goal of a federally funded Connect Ohio technical assistance grant received by the Western Reserve Port Authority.

“This will allow as close to universal wireless internet access as we can accomplish for Mahoning County” homes and offices, once the plan is implemented, said Sarah Lown, WRPA’s public finance manager.

“This is phase one, which is purely technical assistance,” she said.

“That’s people coming in here and assessing what we’ve got and drawing a map connecting the dots to get us ready to install a system,” Lown explained.

“It will take several phases, and we’re going to be looking for an implementation grant after this one,” Lown said.

“It is not cash. It is technical services,” Lown said of the technical services grant, estimating its value at $600,000.

The Oak Hill Collaborative, 507 Oak Hill Ave., is the grant administrator.

Connect Ohio is part of Connect USA, which is a federal program.

Lown and Patrick Kerrigan, executive director of the collaborative, announced the grant at Thursday’s meeting of the Mahoning County commissioners.

The initial connection would be from the collaborative to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, 345 Oak Hill Ave., and to county buildings in downtown Youngstown to make all of them wireless internet hot spots, Lown said.

“One of the things we’re doing at the Oak Hill Collaborative is to try to get access to the neighborhood, and even spreading it around, including parts of downtown and other areas for access to wireless internet,” Kerrigan told the commissioners.

The county auditor’s office and its information technology staff are assisting in this effort, he said.

Youngstown is among five Ohio communities to receive the competitive grant, Kerrigan said.

The Oak Hill Collaborative has a program in which people can build their own computers and three-dimensional printers.

Some people who have built computers at the collaborative have lacked home internet access, so they’ve asked for and received permission to use their computers at the collaborative, Kerrigan told the commissioners.

“That started us thinking that we have to improve access,” he added.

The new program would allow school children, whose parents cannot afford home internet access, to use their computers at home, Lown said.

“This has an economic development component that’s exciting,” Lown added.

The Oak Hill Collaborative and the Youngstown Business Incubator are among “places to incubate new startups, and we’ve been working with all of those partners to find new opportunities for them,” Lown said.

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