YSU, Port Authority Granted $1.2M to Expand Broadband Initiatives

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Two projects in the Mahoning Valley are among 52 recipients of nearly $47 million in grant monies announced Monday by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Youngstown State University has been awarded $1.15 million by the ARC to implement broadband and 5G readiness training across eastern Ohio.

The Western Reserve Port Authority secured $49,970 for the Trumbull County Broadband Engineering study, which will identify routes to supply high-speed broadband to underserved areas of the county.

YSU’s award will allow 165 people in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Jefferson and Belmont counties to earn 375 credentials for careers in broadband and 5G, said Jennifer Oddo, executive director of the university’s Division of Workforce Education and Innovation.

“The deployment of 5G is expected to create approximately 32,000 jobs in network infrastructure over the next several years,” Oddo said. “This funding allows YSU to continue its leadership in ensuring that we develop the trained workforce to respond to those demands.”

The funding is part of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Power, or Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, initiative. In all, the program identified 52 projects in nine states in this latest round of funding.

Oddo said YSU has developed a comprehensive and inclusive plan to increase the broadband/5G workforce through increased industry awareness and outreach, industry-recognized credentials, training, education and career pathways.

“YSU will provide hybrid training and will implement plug-and-play, non-degree curriculum models to ensure the investment in broadband expansion is backed by a skilled workforce capable of connecting urban and rural areas with this critical utility,” she said.

Oddo said YSU has an externally facing learning management system in place and will utilize regional partnerships to ensure the broadband and 5G curriculum and programming is offered to job-seekers region wide.

Among the partners providing additional support for the project are Wireless Infrastructure Association, Ashtabula County Career and Technical Center, Eastern Gateway Community College, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, The Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association and The Workforce Boards from Ohio WIOA Areas 19, 18, 17 and 16.T

Trumbull County’s project will fund a broadband engineering study for a proposed fiber-optic loop designed to provide high-speed broadband service to four underserved communities across the county.

The study will examine alternative broadband deployment routes, including an analysis of existing providers, the commission said. It will also identify partnerships to deploy broadband services in the coal-impacted region and recommend innovative funding opportunities to leverage public-private investment for the project’s implementation. The one-year project will serve four communities.

In all, nine projects throughout Ohio received a total of $8.4 million in ARC funding.

“These ARC Power grants are great news for Ohio,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “This much-needed funding will help ensure that towns and communities across our state have the resources they need to address emerging infrastructure needs, expand broadband in underserved areas, and bolster workforce training – leading to increased economic development in the Appalachia region,”

ARC’s Power initiative directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachian communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries. With this latest funding package, ARC has now invested nearly $366.6 million in 447 projects impacting 360 coal-impacted counties since Power was established in 2015.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.