One Ohio City Proves the Value of Locally Controlled Internet Access During COVID-19

Date: 7 Oct 2020 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Planning, designing, building, and maintaining a community broadband network involves a host of complicated technical, financial, and operational tasks, but being successful also requires having a game plan for marketing.

FairlawnGig, Ohio’s municipal network for the town of 7,500 just north of Akron, is succeeding at the latter during the ongoing public health crisis. It has added a section to its website called Pandemic Positives, highlighting the stories of residents who have, like so many of the rest of us, been forced to move the bulk of our lives online. “In the year of social distancing,” FairlawnGig introduces the stories, “work-from-home, and remote learning, we’re thrilled to bring you and your household the robust Internet service you need. FairlawnGig provides the bandwidth that to support all your needs, even the unanticipated ones, like a pandemic. As necessity is the mother of invention, we’re looking at 2020 as a chance to take lemons and make lemonade.”

The network shares a collection of testimonials from users:

FairlawnGig has been a life saver during the pandemic. Both my husband and I are still working from home and each of us have at least three devices running at once. I’m a teacher at Forest Hill CLC and I can run 2-3 class meetings at the same time with my students while my husband is able to complete his meetings and work with no lag at all from the WiFi. We’re very happy to have this FairlawnGig!

I have been so impressed with the reliability and performance of the FairlawnGig service. Since March, I’ve been working from home and the service has been flawless… up until about two weeks ago when a garbage truck took out my broadband service. Within minutes of my call to FairlawnGig, two members of their team showed and found the fiber that connects to my house laying across the street. Within an hour, I was back online. If you ever had residential Internet service provided by one of the big telecom/cable companies, you would find the return-to-working-service part of this experience unbelievable. With FairlawnGig, this quality of service seems to be the norm.

The biggest change for us, besides not being able to see family and friends, is that we now have three people in our house working from home. We all agree that FairlawnGig has been BETTER than the WiFi connections we had in each of our offices.Not once have we had any blip in the system, or in my phone, which is VOIP. With all of the stress happening around us, I’m so glad that I don’t have to worry about Internet connections!

FairlawnGig is doing everything right here. We’ve pointed out again and again the importance of marketing at all stages of the process: as a way to build political momentum, increase community buy-in, counter predatory pricing and other tactics by incumbent monopoly cable and telecom Internet Service Providers (ISPs), build goodwill among customers, and educate the community.

And while staffing considerations don’t often allow for the hiring of a dedicated marketing person, municipal networks like Wilson, North Carolina’s Greenlight and Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber have demonstrated success in working with the city’s communications department. This goes beyond bringing in users, and includes all the different ways municipal networks have added value to the community: creating and keeping jobs, helping the city secure grants, advancing efforts at eliminating the digital divide, and more.

Listen to Episode 255 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast to hear Christopher talk with Kyle Hollifield, Senior Vice President from Magellan Advisors, about the importance of marketing

Or listen to Episode 229, where Christopher is joined by Bob Knight, Executive Vice President and COO of Harrison Edwards, a public relations and marketing firm which works in the broadband industry:


This article was originally published on ILSR’s Read the original here.

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Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Ry is a Senior Researcher with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative. He is interested in the democratizing power of technology, systems engineering, and the history of science, technology, and medicine.