$200,000 Grant to Expand Broadband for United Local Schools

BOARDMAN, Ohio — A $200,000 grant through BroadbandOhio will increase broadband connectivity to the United Local School District.

The Boardman-based Area Cooperative Computerized Educational Service System, or ACCESS, announced the grant was secured through a partnership with United Local and BroadbandOhio, a department created by the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine in March 2020 to increase high-speed internet access across the state.

The grant will fund a proof-of-concept project that will extend the ACCESS fiber network at the district, connecting to a Private LTE (pLTE) network installed in Hanoverton to serve the neighborhood of students attending United Local Schools, according to a press release. The pLTE provides low-cost broadband access and equipment to families living in the area.

If successful, the pLTE model can be expanded to districts and communities throughout the ACCESS territory in Mahoning and Columbiana counties, according to the release. Construction of the pLTE network should begin soon with an expected completion date before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“At ACCESS, our mission is to provide internet connectivity and application services over the ACCESS Fiber Network to the schools we serve in Mahoning and Columbiana counties,” Lisa Smith, executive director, said in the release. “In light of the [COVID-19] pandemic and need for remote education, the lack of broadband availability in many communities has been identified. This project will provide a means to extend student learning options beyond the school district and its schedule.

“We look forward to a successful implementation that can be replicated across our region to help support our schools in educating students,” Smith continued.

ACCESS is one of 18 governmental computer service organizations, or Information Technology Centers, serving more than 1,000 education entities and more than 1.5 million students in the state. The ITCs and their users comprise the Ohio Education Computer Network.

United Local serves some 1,100 students from its K-12 campus. ACCESS services provided to the district include internet; student, fiscal and library application services; Voice-over-IP phone services; and managed wireless services.

“The pandemic showed us that many of our families had limited to no broadband connection in their residence,” said Lance Hostetler, United Local superintendent. “It also showed that learning does not just take place in a classroom and we are excited to help provide these needed resources for some of our students. We want to thank Lisa Smith and ACCESS for working to advocate for rural schools in our area and our hope is that these programs are expanded so that all students have access to quality broadband in the future.”

The grant is part of $1.4 million in grants awarded to 11 school districts that will assist in providing internet service to some 3,650 student homes in the state, reports The Management Council/Ohio Education Computer Network. The districts were identified by the council’s RemotEDx Connectivity Champions.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.