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No one can afford to wait for internet

It was nearly a year ago when we used this space to address our disappointment in the timeline spelled out in a feasibility study on bringing high-speed internet to underserved areas of Mahoning, Trumbull, Ashtabula and possibly Columbiana counties.

At that time, one of the experts that worked on the study said simply, “Broadband takes time.”

That study commissioned by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments indicated that portions of our counties, including northern Trumbull and southern Mahoning, have zero broadband coverage. The study found 39,962 households in Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties have no internet access. That’s 18 percent of the three counties compared with 15 percent for the state of Ohio.

Also, several areas have slow coverage. Areas with lower population density experience lower broadband availability, and a lack of choice among broadband providers further impacts availability and affordability, according to one expert involved in the Eastgate study.

Undeniably, it is virtually impossible to conduct business or educate our youth without easy access to fast internet and Wi-Fi service. Its vital role in helping many people survive the COVID-19 pandemic relatively unscathed underscores its importance even more.

Businesses hoping to relocate to a region certainly will be discouraged by such large swaths of properties where internet access is less than acceptable, or worse, nonexistent.

And according to Jim Kinnick, Eastgate executive director, it’s not only rural areas in dire need of improved internet access; many urban areas remain underserved as well. Kinnick previously had told our reporters that studies show Youngstown ranks second-worst in broadband accessibility among communities of 5,000 or more in the state, and Warren ranks fifth-worst in Ohio.

Undoubtedly, usage of a new system would be in high demand, transforming our Valley and preparing it for future growth and economic development.

This is the point that we want to drive home on the heels of an announcement about high-speed internet accessibility made last week at the White House. Under the plan addressed by President Joe Biden — with our Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown admirably in attendance — $65 billion of the U.S. $1 trillion infrastructure law signed last November is to be directed to expand access to affordable high-speed internet.

The plan is intended to help subsidize connectivity services in lower-income households.

Good. High-speed internet access is critically important.

But let’s not ignore or overlook how equally important it is to find ways to speed up the process of bringing the necessary infrastructure to our region in order to provide broadband not only into the lower income homes, but into ALL homes.

When so much of our region has no access to internet or are underserved with slow connections, our government should be working to provide and improve service for all Ohioans.

We urge all our elected leaders and their counterparts in the private sector to work together to find the most efficient way to fund and install the needed infrastructure to bring needed broadband to our area.

And we urge these organizations to do it quickly. We must do what we can on our end to ensure no more time is wasted.

editorial@vindy.com

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