On July 28, 2020, Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced the BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant, which allocated $50 million in state funding through federal CARES Act to provide hotspots and internet-enabled devices to students for purchases made between July 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. The Ohio Department of Education, in collaboration with BroadbandOhio, provided Ohio schools and Education Service Centers with the opportunity to apply for these funds through the BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant. The grant application portal was open from August 10 through August 21, 2020. Grants were reviewed and awardees were notified on September 2, 2020.
Riverside Local School District (RLSD) was awarded $121,172.93 in funding through the grant program. RLSD used part of its grant funding to provide hotspots on school buses that drive around the community, offering a place for students to do homework if internet is not available in their homes. Additionally, RLSD approached the DeWine-Husted Administration through BroadbandOhio about utilizing grant dollars to fund infrastructure that would not only provide high-speed internet access at the school and to the students but serve the local community as well.
BroadbandOhio, in partnership with InnovateOhio, collaborated with OARnet, WOCO (Western Ohio Computer Organization), and PCs for People to utilize fixed wireless technology on school property to bring high-speed internet access to approximately 600 households in three surrounding towns: Logansville, De Graff, and Quincy. The innovative approach uses the school’s infrastructure through OARnet to broadcast a wireless signal out to the surrounding communities through an antenna situated on a pole that overlooks the district’s high school.
Subscribers will pay a low upfront fee for a router and then a low monthly fee of $15. RLSD is also subsidizing the cost of some units to help low-income households. The speed of internet is twice that of the federal minimum definition of high-speed internet, providing an important opportunity for students to do their schoolwork remotely and families to work from home.
This innovative pilot project at Riverside Local School District provided the framework for the "Rural Community Point of Presence Blueprint" to help other school districts in their efforts to better connect students to broadband.