Spectrum will expand broadband in rural Portage County with federal funding

Spectrum fiber-optic technician John Rzymek (right) gives a demonstration on fiber optic splicing and installation techniques required to provide service to communities. Portage County Commissioner Tony Badalamenti (left). Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Spectrum is expanding its broadband services in Portage County.

During an event on Jan. 25, representatives from Charter Communications, which goes by the brand name Spectrum, announced that the service expansion will reach more than 290 homes and small businesses in Portage County. The new lines will carry internet, TV, mobile and voice services.

The fiber-optic network expansion in Portage County is part of Spectrum’s $5 billion investment in rural communities, which is partly funded by $1.2 billion from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) reverse auction, an FCC program launched in 2019.

“Today, we’re celebrating the next step in our journey to 100% access for all of Portage County with Spectrum’s broadband expansion through the federally funded RDOF and county funded ARPA programs,” Portage County Commissioner Tony Badalamenti said in a Spectrum press release. “Our residents and businesses need access to reliable and fast internet to thrive in the 21st century.”

Brian Young, director and government affairs in Ohio for Spectrum, speaks about the Network Buildout rural broadband expansion in Portage County. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Badalamenti also said Portage County residents should start seeing houses go online with the new service in the first quarter of 2024.

A 2022 Portager report found that over 2,000 county households, especially in Freedom, Hiram, Paris and Windham, do not have high-speed internet. In most cases, the cost to run fiber-optic lines was thousands of dollars, which service providers were unwilling to pay.

“Spectrum does have the ability to provide service to all municipalities and townships in Portage County,” a Spectrum representative told The Portager at the time. But “we build out where it makes economic sense to do so.”

With the federal dollars, the company is now starting to chip away at the homes left out of the network.

“Our investment is making it possible to deliver high-value broadband, mobile, TV and voice services now available in Portage County,” Chuck Sullivan, Charter’s area vice president of field operations, said in the release. “We are providing local residents and small businesses superior connectivity at highly competitive prices, backed by a team of skilled local technicians and 100% U.S.-based customer service.”

When schools focused on remote learning during the pandemic, some students found it challenging to access the internet.

“Far too many rural students were left behind during the pandemic because they did not have internet access at home,” State Rep. Gail Pavliga said in the release. “I’m excited to see Spectrum delivering reliable internet to Portage County and equip students and educators with the high-speed access they need to learn and study.”

Portage County Commissioner Tony Badalamenti and State Rep. Gail Pavliga gathered with other community leaders and Spectrum representatives to announce broadband internet expansion. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Aside from no modem fees, data caps or contracts, Spectrum delivers up to 1 gigabyte per second, with starting speeds of 300 megabytes per second and 600 megabytes per second.

Spectrum fiber-optic technician John Rzymek gave demonstrations from a Spectrum service truck on fiber-optic splicing and installation techniques required to provide service to the area and beyond.

Years ago, when Rzymek began working for Spectrum, internet signals were still being transferred through coaxial cables, which isn’t as efficient and reliable as fiber-optic cable. That’s because coaxial copper wire reduces bandwidth, plus it requires more frequent repairs and replacements.

A fiber-optic strand is nearly as thin as a human hair and can power an entire community. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

“The nice thing about fiber is, you don’t pick up interference from the outside,” Rzymek said. “That’s what can actually mess up your internet, your signal and everything else.”

One miniscule strand of fiber-optic cable can power an entire community, and “believe it or not, it’s more durable than what you think,” Rzymek said.

For more information regarding Spectrum’s Network Buildout expansion in Portage County visit its Rural Build website.

Jeremy Brown
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