(WKBN) – A broadband feasibility study found big problems in coverage around the Mahoning Valley.

The numbers show that 28% had no access to high-speed internet in Columbiana County, 13% in Trumbull County, and 10% were lacking broadband in Mahoning County.

These five townships were identified as the ones which needed it most in Mahoning County:

  • Goshen
  • Jackson
  • Milton
  • Smith
  • Springfield

Monday, Mahoning County funded a program to fix the problem. Mahoning County commissioners delivered $1.5 million to the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. It will send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to internet suppliers to bid on helping those areas. Eastgate is developing a broadband plan called ConnectMahoning.

“This will give us the opportunity to help those underserved areas provide the speeds we need in areas that have slow speed,” said Jim Kinnick, executive director of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

The population can be spread out and so can the service, creating gaps in coverage.

“This provider has this area; this provider has that area. We’re saying wait a second. How do we go and target the area in the middle that has nothing? That’s the key,” said Steve Kristan, broadband coordinator for Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

Broadband access has been talked about for years. COVID showed everyone its importance because of telehealth, work-from-home, and remote learning capabilities. The $1.5 million is money from the federal government. It will be used to build towers and install lines in those five communities and possibly others.

“It’s sad that we don’t have the connectivity because there are areas where you have opportunities for economic development, for growth to provide businesses and jobs,’ said Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler.

The idea is to bring broadband in what’s called the last mile to businesses, schools, and homes in the areas that don’t have it now and in the communities that need it the most.

“I think $1.5 million should get us where we need to be in these five townships,” Kinnick said.