ConnectMahoning Targets 5 Rural Townships for Broadband

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners and representatives of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments will outline plans for expansion of broadband access in rural parts of the county during a media event Monday.

Commissioners are expected to approve the allocation of $1.5 million from the county’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds for ConnectMahoning, an initiative to expand broadband services in underserved rural sections of the county, when they meet at 5 p.m. in Austintown, county officials announced in a Friday news release.

That meeting and vote will follow a ceremonial check presentation at 2 p.m. the same day at the Ohio State University Extension Services office in Canfield, where officials will detail plans for the initiative. The initial focus will be on addressing needs in Springfield, Goshen, Milton, Jackson and Smith townships, five communities that Eastgate determined were most in need of broadband access.

The COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of the importance of broadband connectivity for county residents and businesses, with the increased need and reliance for online learning, telehealth, remote work and more, according to the release.

“It became apparent that in today’s digital economy, some rural parts of our county found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, and we wanted to help,” Commissioner David Ditzler, chairman of the Mahoning board of commissioners, said. “As the recognized broadband convener for our region, the commissioners chose to partner with Eastgate in order to leverage their knowledge and project management expertise.”

Eastgate conducted a regional broadband feasibility study in 2021 in Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and has been using the results as the blueprint to improve broadband throughout the region. Following the feasibility study, Eastgate conducted a deeper dive into Mahoning County to identify the most underserved communities in the county and developed a plan to address those areas.

“At Eastgate, we value the high-trust partnership that we have with the Board of Mahoning County Commissioners,” Jim Kinnick, Eastgate’s executive director, said. “Having completed our study and developed our plan, we’re now excited about bringing broadband to those underserved areas as we implement ConnectMahoning.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.