Saturday, 16 March 2024 11:18

Better, Faster, Cheaper: Akron's Plan To Bridge The Digital Divide

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So much has changed since the pandemic shut down that started four years ago this week, and one of those things is how much more dependent we all are on technology.

Going to work and to school suddenly became doable from home, but only for those with fast and reliable internet connections. Those who could not count on them, were left having to use less reliable connections through mobile phones, or public Wi-Fi at the library, coffee shops, and restaurants like McDonalds.

Even that was hard, though, because those places shut down too, in the early months of the pandemic, leaving many students and families scrambling.

Since then, the government has stepped in to try to bridge the "digital divide", between Americans in more affluent areas, and those in lower income neighborhoods, where high speed broadband is less prevalent, through federal funds for projects like Summit County's $57 million dollar "fiber ring". That project, which just recently got underway, will  connect 31 local communities and government agencies through a fast and secure network that extends Fairlawn Gig municipal broadband service countywide.

But while extremely useful and important for the safety and security of county residents, that fiber ring doesn't solve the high speed broadband connectivity problem for individual consumers in their homes. So, that's where the City of Akron's recently announced partnership with New Jersey-based SiFi Networks, comes in.

The city will grant the national fiber network developer access to right of ways, with a goal of creating a citywide fiber optic network and affordable, high-quality internet access for all residents.

In return, SiFi Networks plans to invest more than $200 million to install, maintain and operate an underground fiber optic network throughout Akron at no cost to the city, enabling citywide digitization while supporting economic growth.

In addition, SiFi has agreed to reimburse the City of Akron for costs associated with expediting review of permits during the project. 

We talked about it with City of Akron Chief Technology Manager Darren Roznek, who tells us that once the new fiber optic network is built; that could not only mean both high speed internet connections for residents who do not have them yet, but also lower internet connection prices for all consumers in Akron.

Find out why. Listen now.

 

DARREN ROZENEK

Darren Roznek, Chief Technology Manager, City of Akron

 

Read 2519 times Last modified on Saturday, 16 March 2024 12:26

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