PREBLE COUNTY — Representatives from Watch Communications attended the Preble County Township Association meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, to ask for the group’s support when bringing broadband to Preble County.
Watch Communications Senior Channel Manager John Staley and Product Development Manager Tony McAhren presented in front of the gathered trustees.
They explained, Watch Communications aims to extend internet access to parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois over the next three years. This will help businesses and individuals alike access something that has become common place and necessary for many — the internet.
Watch Communications is a subsidiary of Benton Ridge Telephone Company and was established in 1992. From there, the company began it’s journey as a cable TV provider that expanded service offerings at the beginning of the broadband internet revolution in 1990 to include internet. Watch Communications focuses on un-served and under-served small and rural markets throughout Indiana and Ohio, alongside sister company Community Fiber Solutions.
Today, Watch Communications has grown to service over 24,000 homes and businesses throughout Indiana and Ohio. They are also expanding services to Illinois.
According to McAhren, rural America does not have the same resources as an urban/metropolitan market, simply because of geography. They are interested in “closing the divide.” Some of the reasons they believe this is necessary are:
•College graduates are one of the midwest’s largest exports.
•Midwest territories are losing percentage to urban/metro-markets.
•Lack of technological development is limiting economic growth.
•Manufacturers and employers are moving to markets with more available resources.
Watch Communications won $52.3 million in Connect America Funding to be used over Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. However, there are certain requirements to receive that funding:
•Of the network, 40 percent must be completed in each state by year three.
•All of the network — 100 percent — must be completed in each state by year six.
•They must provide a reliable voice service across the entire network.
•25/3 or 100/20 service must be available.
Ahren added, they are looking for community support in locating and gaining access to “vertical assets,” which include various towers and even grain legs. Watch Communications also constructs their own towers when needed. They provide fixed wireless, which means there will be an antenna in the home that reaches to a tower.
As for next steps, Ahren said they need information on the people in the county who might have access to vertical assets.
“The more choices we have, the better design it can be,” he said. “We can’t guarantee we’ll use [everyone’s asset], but we [need] information. Typically, if you provide us a grain leg, we do trade outs for people who let us on the grain legs. You’ll get the fastest speed available in the area.”
He added, they know where all the commercial towers and towers above 200 feet are located. Typically they are looking for assets that are 100 feet or higher, but the higher the asset the better.
Ahren and Staley asked those gathered to provide information through an online Google document once they create it and send out the link.
“We know we can’t do this alone, we need help. The more help we get, the quicker we can do it,” Staley said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH