Summit County Officials Propose Countywide Fiber Optic Broadband Project | New

Summit County officials hope to improve internet access for local governments — and eventually residents — through a $70 million fiber optic broadband network project across the county.

The network, called Summit Connects, would consist of a 125-mile fiber optic ring connecting Summit County and all of its 31 city, town and township governments, as well as a central data center, the director said. of the county, Ilene Shapiro.

The preliminary goal of the project is to provide a high-speed, secure and affordable broadband platform for daily local government operations and communications, Shapiro said. Eventually, the county will seek to partner with private companies to bring the network to homes, schools, businesses and others, she added.

“Residents will have access to it, ultimately, but the first reduction, if you will, is for public safety and economic development,” Shapiro said. “Connecting our communities from a safety perspective is paramount.

Shapiro has asked the county council to approve the project, which would require an estimated $70 million investment from the county, said Brian Nelsen, Shapiro’s chief of staff.

The county plans to use $35 million from its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation and $22 million from the County General Capital Improvement Funds as part of the investment, Nelsen said.

“The private providers we spoke with … both used the $300 million figure for private investment that would grow into the community,” he said.

If approved next week, officials expect the initial design phase to take 6 to 8 months, Nelsen said. Construction of the fiber ring and data center is expected to be completed by 2025, he added.

At this point, county officials will begin planning to bring the technology to residents, Shapiro said.

“We understand that everyone is anxious; they want to get it, but these are big projects, and we want to make sure we’re aware, and we’re working with all 31 communities to get their input,” Shapiro added.

According to Broadband Ohio, 11% of Summit County’s geographic area does not have access to minimum levels of upload and download speeds, county officials said.

Local governments face similar technology issues, Nelsen added. They are often limited when selecting an internet service provider due to cost, he said, and depending on their location, the highest speeds may not be accessible.

Small governments can also be sensitive to security issues, he said.

“It’s a struggle for many of them to keep up to date with technology, to keep themselves safe from cyberattacks, and just the day-to-day operations that run county and city government, and really all organizations.” , Nelsen said.

Summit Connects would also allow the county and 31 communities to reduce collective costs through the use of a single data center, he said.

The fiber would come from a data center in Fairlawn, which already operates its own broadband network, FairlawnGig, Nelsen said.

Shapiro requested a contract with Thrasher Group for the design of the fiber ring and a contract with Mann Parsons Gray Architects for the design of the data center.

Both contracts will not exceed $100,000, according to county officials.

Fairlawn officials recently introduced legislation allowing for the creation of a Council of Governments to operate the fiber ring and data center.

“The City of Fairlawn is thrilled to partner with Executive Shapiro, Speaker Walters, and my fellow mayors and administrators to improve public safety for Summit County’s 540,000 residents. Building this critical infrastructure today will make our county safer tomorrow and open doors for future innovation,” Fairlawn Mayor Bill Roth said in a press release. “We have significant experience in building and operating a service broadband and we look forward to sharing our knowledge with our partners throughout this project.”

Summit County Council meets on Monday, June 27, the last meeting before its summer recess.

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