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Broadband customer describes change in speed

MUSKINGUM TWP — With clear video, audio and no lag from connections in Lowell to Rainbow, Marietta to Harrison County, the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative’s first subscriber shared her experience with new internet speeds Wednesday with elected officials representing her and the area both locally and in Columbus.

“Compared to what we used to have, it’s a lot faster and a lot better,” said Angela Harris, of Muskingum Township. “Whenever my daughter watches things on YouTube or Sesame Street (it no longer) takes forever to load. And it doesn’t buffer all the time like it used to.”

Harris is the mother of two, living on the western side of the Muskingum River just outside of Lowell. She’s one of the early subscribers of the nonprofit’s first wireless signal, following the installation of four antennae earlier this month.

“She’s on that same stretch of unserved area that I happen to live on,” said cooperative founder David Brown.

Brown, an information technology and security specialist, described the connection Harris had prior to a subscription with the nonprofit as “when I saw it, you could probably smoke a brisket in the time it would take you to pull up a webpage.”

“It was bad, I would say right around dial-up speeds,” described Brown.

Contrast that with no lag time, and getting to introduce the newest addition to the family, a months-old infant, to great-grandparents.

“Great-grandma got to see kids that she hasn’t seen, physically, in-person yet,” said Brown.

Installations and setting up accounts are both ongoing for the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative, alongside efforts to secure additional funding, hilltops and state eyes on what many locally consider a public utility, even if not designated federally as such.

But keeping that momentum going with local, state and federal investment was also key to the elected officials also on The Marietta Times video call Wednesday.

“We can sit around and wait until the federal government declares broadband a utility, and if we do that we’re going to be sitting here for another 50 years, another two generations,” said Washington County Commissioner Kevin Ritter. “Or we can do what we’ve done and really take the bull by the horns and do something for ourselves.”

Ritter said that initial investment of CARES Act dollars ($50,000) by the county into the nonprofit was first supported under the last commission while he was a junior member before the additions of commissioners Jamie Booth and Charlie Schilling took office this year, and it’s the stories of families like the Harris family which incentivize the momentum.

“We’re just thrilled with the way things have fallen into place. We’re thrilled that Angie and others are going to have access to high-speed internet and we look forward to cloning the project and getting the entire county on broadband.”

Ohio House Majority Whip Don Jones, who is one-half of Washington County’s representation in the state’s House of Representatives, also took the opportunity Wednesday to share next steps at the state level concerning broadband funding for “boots on the ground” if the Ohio Senate would next pass House Bill 2.

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