Connected Nation is working with five communities across the state of Ohio to analyze broadband data and develop a plan to increase high-speed Internet adoption in local areas.
In January, teams from five Ohio communities including City of Dayton, Wyandot County, Fairfield County, Meigs and Vinton Counties, and Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, began to work with Connect Ohio and Connected Nation to figure out their broadband strategies. The teams will work on the project through May.
Connected Nation works with local communities instead of trying to pass laws in state or local legislatures because it says the people living in rural underserved areas know the problems better than lawmakers.
“Locals are the ones that know what their situation is and need the assistance,” said Eric Frederick, executive director of Connect Michigan.
Connected Nation is a nonprofit organization that works to help communities improve economically and socially by adopting broadband. The organization is also active through state organizations including Connect Ohio, Connect Michigan, Connect Nevada, and Connect Iowa. Connected Nation has been working with local communities since 2001 and began working in the states in 2011.
“Our mission is to improve the quality of life through broadband adoption,” Frederick said.
The Ohio communities were chosen based on the various backgrounds of community leaders interested in being involved in the project, such as local government leaders, industry executives, health care professionals, and schools. This brings many perspectives and potential avenues of change to the table. The communities were also chosen for their ability to collect hyperlocal data about broadband adoption so that Connected Nation can analyze the detailed information and make recommendations on the next course of action.
“What we do is identify populations that are most affected,” said Frederick. “We are able to get to that level of detail.”
The Ohio communities are in the process of collecting data about broadband adoption, including the infrastructure in place, the number of households that lack Internet access, and the cost of broadband. Connected Nation will compare that data to national standards and develop a plan to get communities at or above where they need to be in terms of Internet adoption and speed.
“Access is more of a black-and-white problem,” Frederick said. “Adoption is much stickier.”
In some communities, broadband is available to households but people don’t adopt it because of cost constraints, lack of digital literacy, or lack of a computer or other device. Using granular data, collected by local teams, Connected Nation can determine what the biggest factors are that contribute to lack of Internet adoption and get those that are affected attached to resources.
“Communities with high broadband adoption tend to do better economically,” Frederick said.
Frederick referenced an Oklahoma State University study that found that communities with high broadband adoption rates have lower rates of job losses and local company closures. Broadband has become more important as health care records are available online, students are required to use the Internet to complete homework, and mobile devices become prevalent.
Connected Nation is also working with a six-county region in South Carolina, a three-county region in West Texas, and multiple communities throughout Michigan.
“The technology landscape is constantly changing so I want to make sure my program responds to these changes,” Frederick said.