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Stimulus broadband aid to benefit county

March 5, 2010

LISBON -Columbiana County is expected to benefit from nearly $12 million in federal stimulus money awarded Ohio to help the poor and unemployed obtain high-speed Internet service and train them how to use it.

Cleveland-based OneCommunity was recipient of the $11.7 million stimulus money awarded this week through the U.S. Department of Commerce. OneCommunity will direct $3.1 million of that amount to ACCEL, a Zanesville nonprofit with which it partnered to administer the two-year program to 10 Appalachian counties, including Columbiana County.

According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story, 33 percent of Ohioans don't use the Internet, limiting their access to information and educational opportunities needed to better themselves so they can compete for jobs. The program is supposed to address this by exposing more people to the wonders of the Internet.

"In a globalized 21st-century economy, when you don't have regular access to the Internet, you don't have access to all the educational and employment opportunities it provides. Fast, reliable Internet can help keep communities safer, open doors to small business and provide job training and skills to more Americans," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

According to a news release from U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, ACCEL - the Appalachian Center for Collaborative and Engaged Learning - is expected to help more than 6,000 people across 10 counties it will serve, including Columbiana County, and create at least 21 jobs.

"Expanding broadband (high-speed Internet) in our area is key to expanding small businesses and creating jobs," he said

Jason Schroeder, ACCEL project coordinator, said all of the details have yet to be worked out, so he doesn't how much money will be directed to Columbiana County eventually.

"We want this money to go as far it can and reach as many households as we can," he said.

The emphasis will be on broadband.

"We're going to take people who don't necessarily know the difference between broadband and dial-up service, show them how great broadband is, and teach them how to use the service," Schroeder said.

The income guideline to determine eligibility has yet to be released, but OneCommunity says participants will be "low-income individuals and households." Besides familiarizing them with the Internet, participants can be trained on how to use the service to apply for jobs online, enroll for online classes, or access medical and health resources.

Those who complete the free training program are eligible for a $125 voucher that can be used to purchase computer equipment or broadband service.

"All of the things that you can do online you need broadband for. We'll train them how to do it and help them get hooked up," Schroeder said.

OneCommunity just happens to have a satellite operation at the Columbiana County Port Authority's industrial park in Leetonia. OneCommunity is a nonprofit provider of broadband to unserved communities and is working with Omnicity Corp., a new port authority tenant that plans to bring wireless broadband service to 80 percent of the county.



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