Charter's Investment in Rural Ohio Brings Residents Up to Speed
Late last year, the citizens of Athens County, Ohio, which is situated in beautiful Appalachian country, received some exciting news. The county would soon be receiving access to internet speeds that rival those in Los Angeles and New York City households. For a rural area that sees many tourists come through, and where many of its residents travel from small towns to work in the city of Athens, this was a pretty big deal. By the end of 2019, Charter deployed its advanced Spectrum Internet services to over 2,400 homes and businesses in the area using its own private capital funds. Over the last two years, the ISP, which reaches over 30 million customers across 41 states, has invested nearly $1 billion in infrastructure and technology in Ohio alone, and reached an additional 100,000 homes and businesses across the state.
"Governor DeWine and I are grateful for Spectrum's investment that will help improve the quality of life for more Ohioans," said Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted at the launch celebration event hosted by Charter this past February. "It's not something [Spectrum] has to do. It is something they chose to do." Husted also stated that the expansion of broadband into rural Ohio has been one of the top priorities for Governor DeWine's administration.
When Charter stepped in to provide the connectivity that people needed, it could not have come at a better time. Little did everyone know, a global health crisis was about to shut down the economy and send people home for long periods of time. Fortunately, because of Charter's investments to bring new service to the area, 2,400 more residents in Athens County now have the ability to access telehealth and educational opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic that they would not have been able to prior to receiving Charter's high-speed internet services.
But even before the pandemic started, stories and anecdotes from residents started trickling in to Charter's offices. "Our operations employees performing the upgrade were hearing a lot of excitement from community members that we were making this investment," said Gary Underwood, Charter Group Vice President of Government Affairs for Ohio. In fact, it was not uncommon for residents to wave, honk, or stop and say "Thank You" to Spectrum field technicians as they were building out the network—a few even dropped off baked goods at the local office to show their appreciation. Underwood added, "They were very excited for us to deploy. It's this two-pronged economic development effect when you have existing businesses that need connectivity to grow, and you also need to attract new businesses. But you can't really do that without connectivity, and we are able to provide that. It's very beneficial for the community and for business operations."
Charter's investments in bringing broadband to unserved areas of Ohio didn't stop with Athens County. The ISP just recently announced the completion of broadband buildout projects to 1,300 homes and businesses in the villages of New Holland, Clarksburg, Williamsport and parts of surrounding townships, as well as more than 2,000 homes and businesses in the Village of South Webster and portions of Bloom Township near Ashley Corner and Scioto Furnace. Similar to Athens County, the residents of these towns now have access to high-speed broadband service that they did not have before, with starting speeds of 100 Mbps and connections available up to 1 Gbps.
Rural areas like Athens County, New Holland, and South Webster often face steeper challenges than other parts of the country when it comes to internet access. The deployment of fiber in sparsely populated and remote regions can often prove cost prohibitive and incredibly time intensive for numerous reasons. "Before we can bring service to customers there are barriers to building out our network, for example attaching to poles or getting permits for things like crossing railroads. It could take months or years to deploy service to areas that desperately need it," said Underwood.
The Charter team also delves in to make ready work on utility poles, which can be very time consuming and can become a major barrier to deploying broadband. Underwood explained that any delay in the permitting process or getting access to utility poles can significantly delay broadband buildout. "We all work together to get it done and to move as quickly as possible so that we can deliver these services to existing and future customers," said Underwood.
With more than 7,500 employees in the state, Charter has the ability to make a significant impact for Ohioans every day. "It's a highly local business," said Underwood. "It's easy for us to get feedback, take it back to the business, find a way to resolve a problem or share an opportunity for an upgrade. We get a chance to really interact and connect with our customers directly and out in the community on a daily basis."