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Mid-Ohio Valley reviews reaches of provided internet

Applauding the efforts of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and his all-call to West Virginians to refute federal documentation of internet access with true data, a challenge has arisen on this side of the river.

“Washington County, Ohio’s response: ‘Hold my beer,'” joked David Brown, a founding member of the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative leading a grassroots, citizen-driven data collection of internet access in Washington County. “I sent that through his page … but you know what, let’s do a formal challenge. Let’s do the Appalachian Speed Test Challenge.”

The cooperative, in partnership with GEO Partners LLC, is running a fact-checking mission through a free internet speed test and by taking phone calls to log where service does not exist in Washington County.

West Virginian access

Manchin announced last week that his June challenge to West Virginians was successful in submitting more than 2,000 broadband speed tests to the Federal Communications Commission.

Manchin’s goal is not unlike the cooperative’s on this side of the river: proving the FCC’s broadband coverage maps are wrong and must be fixed before the $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is “distributed incorrectly.”

“With more than two months left in 2020, West Virginians have met and exceeded the goal I set earlier this year to submit 2,000 speed tests to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai,” Manchin said in a statement. “I am impressed by their dedication and persistence in proving the FCC’s maps wrong and it is a testament to their efforts to improve broadband coverage for their families, friends, and neighbors in West Virginia.”

Washington County access

In Washington County, a fact-checking mission began this month to do the same, but to reach statistic validity accurately representative of every individual township in the southeast Ohio county.

Dunham Township and Belpre Township need help, only 1 percent of households in either township are represented. The bare minimum needed to convince the FCC is 10 percent.

“We have people in our area who have sort of internet, but it’s kind of a hit and miss thing,” said Asa Boring, a Belpre Township trustee. “But when you get a mile out of Little Hocking it’s over with, you just don’t get it … unless you sign up with Windstream and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

But upon hearing from the Times that Belpre Township and Dunham Township residents still need nearly 500 households to represent hard data refuting federal claims of reliable coverage, Boring was on board to spread the word.

He took down the numbers: a need of 235 more households in Dunham and 264 more households in Belpre.

“I know I have three neighbors that don’t have it because they live 200 yards off of the roadway and [the internet service provider] won’t run the line that far,” Boring noted. “The man across the road from me tried to get it but was told that was too far … and another new house the road doesn’t have it.”

Boring asked about costs, and learned that the speed test going on right now is free.

Then when the data is collected, GEO Partners LLC will provide multiple cost scenarios and build-out options to offer affordable internet to residents.

County Engineer Roger Wright also learned of the speed test Wednesday and noted the possibility of coordinated work to use emergency radio towers in the county to help with the deployment of whatever the cooperative produces.

Brown confirmed that those towers are a part of the business plan moving forward, once the FCC can be convinced of the need for reliable speeds in Washington County.

“Well then we have to fact-check them,” Boring said.

Local residents have the opportunity to refute internet service providers’ reporting to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in what those providers say they supply by:

1. Taking the internet speed test on their home computer at www.seobc.us

2. If residents at home do not have internet, they’re asked to call 740-538-0084 and leave a message with the following information:

¯ Identify your address.

¯ Say that you do not have internet access.

¯ Optional: Share your name if you would like to be contacted with more information about the Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative conducting the test with GEO Partners LLC through grassroots participation by Friday.

Read more:

How we got here: “Speed Test: Group pushes for data to provide better broadband,” (Published Oct. 7)

Early growth in participation: “If you want your voice to be heard about less than stellar internet service, this is your chance.” – David Brown. (Published Oct. 9)

Phone number option added: “Thousands more needed for internet speed test” (Published Oct. 10)

Targeting of specific townships needed: “I have sufficient data to do an analysis today, but this is not sufficient to convince the FCC,” explained Glenn Fishbine, of GEO Partners LLC, the geospatial engineering firm partnering with the nonprofit Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative to conduct the study through Oct. 23. (Published Oct. 15)

Township focus shows progress, and greater need: The southern-most portion of Washington County has seen the least participation. (Published Oct. 21)

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