|Van Wert County first in Ohio to be named Connected Community|
|Friday, August 23, 2013 12:02 AM|
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT — Van Wert County celebrated a first on Wednesday. The county became the first certified Connected community in Ohio, meaning the county is the first to score high enough to obtain the rating. That was accomplished with the addition of fiber networks which increases connectivity and speed.
The certification was made by Connect Ohio, an organization promoting bringing affordable high-speed Internet and broadband to everyone in the state.
Van Wert County 911 Coordinator Kim Brandt accepted the certification on behalf of the team that helped complete the assessment. She recapped a few of the benefits to bringing in another broadband fiber line to back up the new fiber line, including improved service in county offices and the resulting savings on expenses. Brandt also pointed out that the broadband service made it possible for Van Wert High School to broadcast city council meetings on local access television and allows Van Wert Municipal Court Judge Jill Leatherman to hold required arraignment hearings by video connection, saving transportation of prisoners to the courtroom and any possible problems with the prisoners.
Brandt went on to describe the future benefits, saying, “The end result will be a step toward NG911 (Next Generation 911) implementation, improved government services for residents, continued savings for taxpayers and the possibility of lowered costs to residents for high-speed Internet and phone services.”
She also noted a very important driving force for this program. “It will make Van Wert County more attractive for business,” stated Brandt.
Stu Johnson, Connect Ohio executive director, highlighted the message this dedication to high-speed Internet and broadband connections will give to prospective companies eyeing Van Wert County as a new home. These companies realize that technology capabilities and realities are infrastructure like roads and utilities and they are sure to want superior technology availability.
“We all know the demand is there. The providers know the demand is there. It’s going crazy,” exclaimed Johnson. “The demand is here right now and investment is being made right now. That is going to continue, but where is it going to be directed? It’s going to be directed to communities that ‘get it.’ Communities that understand. Communities that embrace it. Communities who have done the work and go out and say, ‘We’re here to play.’ This report tells the rest of the world that Van Wert is ready to play.”
The fact that this status is a great economic development tool was repeated several times during the Wednesday morning meeting.
However, there is still work to do, according to the report based on the assessment. There are still areas that need improvement, but enough progress has already been made to garner the certification. Besides being the first certified community in Ohio, Van Wert County is only the ninth certified community in the United States.
Highlights in the county’s assessment included availability of computers for the public in places like the Brumback Library and the Council on Aging, extensive competition of broadband providers with 18 offering services and a large percentage of county businesses with websites.
The statistics shown Wednesday are a huge step forward from a 2007 study. In that examination, only nine providers offered broadband services and speeds were only slightly faster than the state average. At that time almost three out of five respondents said they did not need broadband or did not understand the benefits, and 20 percent stated broadband was unavailable at their residences. Only 72 percent of county residents even had computers at that point with only 64 percent had Internet service.