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United receives $200K grant for broadband access

HANOVERTON — United Local students will have more accessible and faster internet thanks to a $200,000 grant that the Area Cooperative Computerized Educational Service System received on their behalf.

The money will be used to increase broadband access and connectivity to the school. Superintendent Lance Hostetler said that the project will improve learning both in and out of the classroom.

“The pandemic showed us that many of our families had limited to no broadband connection in their residence. It also showed that learning does not just take place in a classroom and we are excited to help provide these needed resources for some of our students,” Hostetler said. “We want to thank Lisa Smith and ACCESS for working to advocate for rural schools in our area and our hope is that these programs are expanded so that all students have access to quality broadband in the future.”

At the start of the pandemic, schools were left scrambling to come up with remote learning options for students, and schools in more rural areas were faced with the additional obstacle of poor internet service in the area. Lisa Smith, executive director of ACCESS, said that the pandemic shined a light on the lack of broadband availability in many communities, including Hanoverton.

The grant funds were secured in cooperation with United Local Schools and made available by BroadbandOhio. A proof of concept project will be funded and completed using the grant award. The project will extend the ACCESS fiber network at United Local Schools connecting to a private LTE network installed in Hanoverton to serve the neighborhood of students attending United Local Schools. The pLTE network will provide low-cost, broadband access and equipment to families living in the area.

If the project is successful, the pLTE model can be expanded to other school districts and communities throughout the ACCESS territory covering Mahoning and Columbiana counties. ACCESS expects construction on the LTE network to begin soon with a hopeful completion date prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Located in Boardman, ACCESS is one of 18 governmental computer service organizations serving more than 1000 educational entities and over 1.5 million students in the state of Ohio. These service organizations, known as Information Technology Centers, and their users make up the Ohio Education Computer Network, Such sites, in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Education, comprise a statewide delivery system to provide comprehensive, cost-efficient accounting and other administrative and instructional computer services for participating Ohio entities.

ACCESS serves local schools in Mahoning and Columbiana counties and is active in local, regional, and state work groups designed to make services for schools better, less costly, and more efficient.

lnickel@mojonews.com

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