GALLIPOLIS — Bossard Memorial Library played host to Gallia County Chamber of Commerce’s “Meet your Legislators Day” Wednesday evening and while the assembled might have diverged on many opinions, they all agreed bringing jobs to Ohio and providing better internet was at the heart of its infrastructure as a top priority.
US Senator Rob Portman Representative Todd Shelton, US Senator Sherrod Brown Representative Jeanne Wilson, US Congressman Bill Johnson Representative Juli Stephens, Ohio State Representative Ryan Smith Representative Taylor Stepp, Gallia County Commissioner Harold Montgomery and Gallipolis City Commissioner Tony Gallagher all weighed in on the issue.
“It’s very difficult in southeast Ohio,” said Shelton. “There’s a lot of factors in play and I’m sure everybody has heard it all before. It’s hard to expand. It’s expensive. All that stuff is true. I think the role that Senator Portman feels is that the role of federal government is if we’re not able to solve the problem at the federal level, how can we help states do it? So, I think continuing to work with folks on the ground and our local companies here. I think trying to drive demand and keeping costs low is the key in southeast Ohio. To be fair, it’s going to be difficult in rural area unless you have things like what the library is doing here, like what the library is doing here with the (Wi-fi-to-Go program)…I know there are groups around the state that have been trying for many years to help expand this. I don’t think it’s going to be solved overnight but we’re going to continue to work at it.”
According to Wilson, she was in a conference recently discussing broadband options through the Appalachian Regional Commission called “Cool and Connected.” It doesn’t expand broadband out into rural areas but it does help small cities get with their businesses and help them understand how the internet can be more helpful to them. Senator Brown met with a local business called Digital Works in Gallia County in December of last year. The business attempts to train area residents in technology and customer support skills in order to work with companies to allow residents to work from home. If unable to work from home, there is a location in Gallipolis which provides internet access for these workers to fulfill national competitive jobs.
Wilson felt the more demand there was for broadband services the more likely networking was to be made. According to her, anytime the Ohio Department of Transportation worked on a major roadway, it was installing conduit for future companies to potentially run fiber lines for rural connections along the roadway.
Gallipolis Commissioner Gallagher said that one of the first questions any business asked when looking to set up shop in Gallipolis was what internet connections were like. Gallia Commissioner Montgomery stated the commissioners and State Representative Ryan Smith’s Office, along with local internet providers, were looking at the best available options to increase internet connectivity with area residents.
Having encountered a healthy demand for wi-fi hotspots, the Bossard Memorial Library recently expanded its “Wi-Fi-to-Go” program from 20 units to 40.
“We hope to see an increase in the use of the many databases offered by the library with the introduction of the Wi-Fi To Go program at Bossard, namely Gale Courses for public libraries, which provides patrons with hundreds of free, online college-level courses in a variety of subjects,” Bossard Library Director Debbie Saunders previously told the Tribune. “The library continues to provide public internet access computers for patron use within the walls of the library building as well as wireless access for those who bring their own personal devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops to the library. The new Wi-Fi to Go program, however, enables the library to provide wireless internet access to patrons when they are away from the library — be it at home, in the workplace, or while traveling within the United States.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.