Commissioners bringing broadband to the county


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — By June 30, 2025, Darke County can expect to have another source for reliable internet service. Darke County Commissioners Larry Holmes and Matt Aultman approved a grant agreement with the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) for a $500,000 grant it is regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17. Commissioner Marshall Combs was absent as he was representing the commissioners at a meeting in Columbus.

Commissioner Holmes has been at the forefront of bringing broadband internet coverage to the county. “This is something we’ve been working on since the spring and summer of 2021,” he said. The cost to bring broadband internet into the county is nearly $2.8 million with approximately $2 million come from outside sources. The county will pay approximately $857,000 out of its capital improvement account. In addition to the ODOD funds, Agile, the vendor installing the fiber internet to the towers, has agreed to contribute $840,000 toward the project and the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation will provide a total of $600,000 spread out over three years.

The fiber cable will be ran to 10 locations, including nine existing locations as well as a new tower that will be built in the northwest part of the county. Holmes pointed out the construction of the tower is what will lengthen the time table for the project’s completion.

Once we sign the contract, there will parts of it rolled out every three months.

Agile will not take into homes, but will work with last mile providers. These could be a variety of companies, such as Wabash or NKTelco, who would bring it in the home wirelessly. It’s an open network which could help keep the cost lower for residents. “We can have three or four different providers. Well, if you have three or four offering, it’s not like a monopoly where you have one person providing. You have a better option for your people in that area,” said Aultman. He said they wanted to keep it an open network because as commissioners they don’t want to “provide winners and losers to private business.”

The county will work Agile to bring in the fiber network to the towers. The last mile providers will purchase bandwidth from Agile to bring internet into the home. Through this agreement, the county expects to cover 92 percent of the county with reliable internet coverage. According to Commissioner Aultman, the county currently has less than 50 percent coverage with reliable internet, which means Darke County has a lot of underserved areas. While a lot of the county has internet, because of the speeds that are available, the majority of the county is deemed as underserved. By definition, underserved is defined by speeds of less than 100Mbps download speed and 20Mbps upload speed. Aultman admitted his home internet is at under 5Mbps download speed and sometimes under 1Mbps on upload speed.

We’re bringing in a sustainable fiber base onto these towers. He said it will be a sustainable source of internet that won’t get interrupted by human technology. Other companies that have tried to bring wireless internet to the county have beamed the internet from another tower in another location before sending it to your home. With this broadband system, it will be a fiber cable that takes it directly to the tower. With the previous versions of wireless internet in the county, a bad connection could have been because of line-of-sight issues. If a tower goes down, it is because it lost the internet and not because it lost the signal from a satellite or was obstructed.

With 92 percent coverage of Darke County, there will be a lot of Darke County that still won’t have coverage. Holmes said most of that will be along the Ohio and Indiana border, but there are some spot areas that won’t benefit from county-wide broadband. “Once we get this up and going, the intent is to fill out the other eight percent the best we can,” said Holmes.

In other business, commissioners approved a bid from Arcon Builders in the amount of $412,512 for maintenance on the Darke County Courthouse. According to Aultman, maintenance hasn’t be done on the outside of the building since the 1990s. Some of the work that will be done includes tuckpointing the blocks as the grout is starting to come loose and will fix issues with some of the windows that are leaking. Additional work will be completed as needed.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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