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Summit County Council Unanimously Approves Broadband Resolutions

Summit for Fiber News Room

Summit County, Ohio – County Council unanimously approved on Monday the first two resolutions that lay the foundation for work to begin on an ambitious long-term plan to expand broadband in the Northeast Ohio county.

The pair of resolutions presented by County Executive Chief of Staff Brian Nelsen, numbered 2021-295 and 2021-296, were the first to be presented to council.

Broadband Expansion in Job Hubs and Opportunity Zones

The first resolution, 2021-295, finds its roots in plans set in motion prior to a larger broadband project coming into focus. Authorizing a professional service contract with Environmental Design Group, LLC (EDG), terms of the contract were under negotiations until the day of the meeting. In a Press Release dated March 30, 2021, it was announced that Summit County was awarded a $125,000 Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant for broadband infrastructure. The resolution ratifies formal acceptance of the grant and authorizes the matching funds tied to it. At the time of the plan's inception, it was not known that additional funding opportunities would be available. Termed a "Louis and Clark Expedition" during the September 27 meeting, the work undertaken by EDG will serve as a compass for what to expect when looking to activities necessary for larger expansion: surveying of fiber routes, market demand, private partners, as well as engineering and construction concerns.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

When speaking to the possibilities presented by the larger expansion project, it was stated that countywide traffic signalization and synchronization sytems could emerge from the network. In a situation where the network was under attack, Summit County could disconnect from the greater internet and maintain communications within the network's footprint. While it was noted that that is a longer-term vision for the project, the approval of the two resolutions kicks off the project and brings that future closer to reality.

Countywide fiber ring

The second resolution, 2021-296, authorizes a contract with MCM Consulting Group, Inc., which the county has worked with previously for their Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) project as well as the Summit County Criminal Justice Technology Project. The work would relate to the Summit County Public Safety Fiber and Communications Network, which would run approximately 125 miles through all 31 localities within the county. Based on the size of the contract, it was asked what the project activities would include based on the size of the project. The planning would involve a broad scope of work running through 2024. When asked about controlling cost for the project, it was stated that additional hours are inevitably expected to be needed as the project commences and that such additional work would be subject to a favorable hourly rate, though Nelsen did not have the exact figure available.

Looking to the Future of Broadband Expansion

While resolution 2021-295 only includes planning activities catered to the EDA grant which in part funds its work, the larger project has now come to include American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. It was stated that another RFP would be planned for a later date, riding on the back of the trailblazing work the EDA-funded study will reveal. This future study should give communities within Summit County the keys to understand the market conditions and cost of broadband expansion in their specific areas. Understanding these inner workings will inform how community broadband grants from Summit County will serve to fit its communities broadband funding needs.