Access to high-speed internet in Seneca County

Bascom Communications is set to extend fiberoptic lines for high-speed internet to more than 1,000 locations.

SENECA COUNTY, Ohio — Seneca County leaders are working to make sure rural areas have access to high-speed internet, launching a study to pinpoint where that access may be low or unavailable.

Coverage is a bit spotty in the county, and Nate Brickner, general manager of Bascom Communications, said it’s because the installment costs to get new infrastructure into less populated areas are much higher.

“If you want to run fiber to someone, it’s a lot harder to run it to five people in a mile than it is to pass a hundred people in a dense area,” Brickner said.

County commissioners said access to high-speed internet has become even more important, especially following the past two years, when so much work and schooling had to be done online.

“I think we’ve seen here through the pandemic, it affects everything. It affects people’s small businesses, it affects agriculture and the agricultural community, it affects the way our students learn if they’re learning from home,” Seneca County Commissioner Tyler Shuff said.

“There are people that would rather have their other utilities shut off before their WiFi goes out in their house, so it is vital. I mean, people work, play and they study; they do everything on it,” Brickner said.

Bascom Communications recently received more than $360,000 from the FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to install fiber-optic lines for 412 locations.

But, company leadership has decided to put in some of its own capital to help expand the initiative.

“If we’re going to have everything else out there and we’re buying in bulk, we might as well use some of the cost efficiencies for doing this. So, our board has committed to passing over 1,000 locations; it’s a multi-million dollar project,” Brickner said.

Bascom Communications has already started laying that new fiber down. However, because of supply chain issues, crews aren’t sure quite how long it will take to get this project complete.

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