FairlawnGig has released a new, short, six-minute video that captures why broadband infrastructure is essential for improving quality of life and boosting economic development in communities across Ohio, highlighting a lesson more cities and towns across the nation are learning first-hand: if the goal is to build a bridge over the digital divide, local communities will likely have to build it themselves.
The video (which you can watch in its entirety by clicking on the video embedded below) also serves as a subtle but fitting admonition of an anonymous state Senator who submitted an amendment into the state budget earlier this year. If passed, it would have threatened to put the award-winning fiber network out of business and prevented other communities in the Buckeye State from following in Fairlawn’s footsteps.
Thankfully, the amendment – a gift to incumbent monopoly ISPs intent on crushing any competition – was rejected after state lawmakers were inundated with constituent complaints about the “in the dark of night” proposal.
Compelled to Take It on Themselves
Fairlawn, a small city of approximately 7,500 Ohioans about 10 miles northeast of Akron, created a telecommunications utility in 2015 to bring city-wide access to high-speed Internet service after years of dealing with subpar broadband offerings. Today, the network enjoys a take-rate of 60 percent while subscribers enjoy a choice of three residential services tiers: a 300 Megabits per second symmetrical connection for $55/month; symmetrical gig speed service for $75/month; or 2.5 Gigabits per second service for $149/month.
In the video, the narrator begins with an observation that is fast becoming obvious to just about everyone:
Many communities in the U.S. are being left behind due to a lack of adequate Internet service and access to state of the art technology.
Fairlawn Mayor William Joseph Roth Jr. kicks off the video by explaining why Fairlawn was compelled to tackle the issue themselves.
The main issue in Fairlawn was a terrible Internet level of service … With companies it was a real problem. We actually had some companies come to us and tell us that if they couldn’t get a better level of Internet service they would have to relocate … and not just outside of Fairlawn, but outside of the state of Ohio.
City officials first approached the region’s incumbent providers and asked them to partner with the city to upgrade their networks. None of the incumbents stepped to the plate.
“It led us to the idea that we would have to take this utility on ourselves,” Fairlawn Director of Public Service Ernie Staten explains in the video.
Economic Development Engine
One often overlooked aspect of investing and building community-wide broadband infrastructure – the positive impact it has on the local real estate market – is also covered in the video.
Betsy Henn, a local realtor who lives and works in Fairlawn, is featured in the video explaining how FairlawnGig transformed the local real estate market.
Not only has it improved quality of life, in her line of her work, she said, “it’s a great marketing tool” that has attracted residents and businesses to put down roots in Fairlawn, which includes new hospitals moving into town because of their ability to get a direct, secure fiber connection.
As state and local leaders across the country are considering how to leverage an influx of federal funds to improve access to high-speed Internet service, FairlawnGig’s new video is a timely reminder on how communities can solve their connectivity challenges at the local level by building the networks that can deliver reliable and affordable high-speed Internet service, something the biggest private Internet Service Providers often refuse to do.
Inline image of Fairlawn exit sign courtesty of WikiMedia Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)