(Posted May 23, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Madison County officials have embarked on a project to install more fiber-optic lines around the county.
“We have a basic idea of bandwith being provided in different parts of the county. We know there isn’t enough fiber available in the county,” said Rob Slane, Madison County administrator.
Together with the Miami Valley Educatinal Computer Association (MVECA), headquartered in Yellow Springs, and a private partner, the county plans to install 577,000 feet of fiber in a ring that runs from London to Plain City to West Jefferson to Mount Sterling and back to London, with spurs to Midway and South Solon.
The estimated cost of the project is $6 million to $8 million. MVECA, the private partner, and the county will share in the cost. Each will own a portion of the new fiber-optic lines, and each will have the ability to lease those lines to Internet providers, businesses, and other entities.
The county is investing $3 million from the general fund into the project and is pursuing Broadband Ohio grants and other grants to help cover costs.
The benefits of the project are many, Slane said, listing enhanced ability to attract and support new development which brings with it new jobs, increased Internet service to underserved parts of the county, in-house cost savings, and a new revenue stream for the county.
“All businesses rely on the Internet,” Slane said regarding the economic development piece. “Having more fiber opens up the door for the tech sector that has good-paying jobs. It also helps all aspects of commercial and light industrial development. It’s one of those (infrastructure) pieces that you just have to have that we currently don’t have enough of.”
In addition to boosting economic development, the additional fiber lines should mean improved Internet service to residents living in areas that are currently underserved.
“Wireless Internet service providers will be able to set up their wireless equipment, connect to the (fiber) ring, then broadcast signal out to those rural areas of the county. There’s a potential for increasing bandwidth,” Slane said. “It should also add some competition as far as providers go.”
The increased fiber access also will benefit the county’s bottom line, he continued.
“Fiber access allows the county control over its costs associated with connectivity to the Internet, local network resources, off-site backup, and telephone services, saving nearly $100,000 annually,” Slane said.
He expects the county to see a return on its investment in less than five years, after which the fiber ring will become a revenue source for the county.
The project is in the design phase now.
“We’re determing the route, taking into consideration existing utilities already in the ground and right-of-way,” Slane said.
Once the design phase is complete, the project will go to bid, then to construction. A completion date for the project depends on weather and the availability of labor and materials. Slane expects the project to be done in the next few years.