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Broadband cooperative begins making connections

Washington County Commissioner Jamie Booth takes a call in Rainbow on how to sign up for the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative’s mapping planning with a U.S. Army veteran out of Veto. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

RAINBOW — Phones have been ringing off the hook since tower installation day.

“The calls just keep coming in, that one was an army vet out on Veto Lake,” said Washington County Commissioner Jamie Booth after stepping back inside the Brown family home on the Muskingum River.

Booth was heard rattling off how the nonprofit Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative got started in 2020, and walked the veteran through his and his neighbors’ next steps to see internet coverage come their way with future tower and repeater installations.

“We have over 200 subscriber requests and that’s not including the list from the school,” said the cooperative’s founder, David Brown, as Booth stepped off the call.

The first installation for four antennae went up on Feb. 11.

The Highland Ridge water tower and neighboring cellular tower are visible across the Muskingum River in Rainbow on Monday. The cellular tower is where the first wireless signal is being broadcast by the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative today. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

But that wasn’t the first work, the effort has been approximately a year in the making, with Washington County residents participating in grassroots mapping through the facilitation of Brown, Peggy Bailey and Booth to kick off an effort to disprove coverage maps at the federal level.

Booth left the cooperative’s board leadership to separate potential partisanship as his campaign for county commissioner took off last spring, but stayed an ally of the connectivity effort as southeast Ohio was surpassed by large Ohio cities for virtual learning connection and aid.

Then following months of design and fiscal negotiation, the Washington County Commission approved the use of federal CARES Act dollars to invest funds into the installation of the wireless broadband service.

Next, their eyes are on the participation of the county to map out additional locations for the minimum service of 25 Megabits download speed and 3 Mbps upload, but no throttling for packages of up to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

The speed tests off the Highland Ridge Tower on Monday? 96.9 Mbps download and 24.4 Mbps upload.

“There are people in Marietta that are paying for higher speeds and not getting nearly that,” said Brown.

For reference, a competitor’s connection in Marietta before press time Monday was 19 download and 18.1 upload.

“This is going to be a process,” cautioned Booth, standing at Brown’s kitchen counter. “This has been a grassroots effort from the start. It’s not like the cooperative has 20 employees that are going to come out tomorrow and start hanging this up.”

With one employee so far making installations, however, the work has moved quickly for the first subscribers this week, noted Brown.

“This is Washington County helping themselves,” concluded Booth.

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Pricing:

The nonprofit’s pricing structure includes a one-time $120 installation fee to include all of the equipment needed to provide service and enter the user into the membership of the cooperative.

¯ Packages:

¯ Basic: $60 per month with 25 Megabits per second download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed.

¯ Tier 2: $80 per month with 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.

¯ Tier 3: $100 per month with 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

¯ Timing: This grassroots effort is currently signing up members surrounding the Highland Ridge tower, while also mapping the next locations to erect wireless signal in Washington County.

To sign up for service in the Lowell/Rainbow/Lower Salem area or to be noted for mapping the next tower location visit seobc.us.

Source: Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative.

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