(WKBN) – The state of Ohio has allocated $500,000 to help get the area up to speed as far as internet access.

Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik joined state and local leaders in Youngstown on Wednesday to announce the state’s support of a broadband expansion project in Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

The funding will go toward conducting an engineering analysis necessary to complete the “Lake-to-River Fiber Broadband Corridor” along State Route 11.

The idea is to install a high-speed fiber line along nearly 100 miles of Route 11, from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, and then build off of that down the major highways. There are more than 110,000 people without internet access between Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

The fiber line is expected to give internet service providers the means to reach people in more rural areas that they weren’t able to before. It will provide fast internet access to more than 620,000 citizens in the region.

Construction will hopefully begin by the summer of next year.

Senator Mike Rulli says broadband will connect our region and bring even more opportunities.

“We’re going to be able to develop not only Ashtabula but Columbiana, and you’re going to see a lot of different offshoots of different technology that we can bring here,” Rulli said.

The engineering analysis is the second step in the process. The first step was a feasibility study that was conducted to pinpoint the problem areas, which began in November 2020 and was finished in June 2021.

The analysis will help create a blueprint for the project.

There are still several spots across the Valley that have no access to the internet, or where internet is so slow that it doesn’t reach the Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark for broadband service delivery. The problem was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to work from home and move to mobile learning.

Wednesday’s announcement is part of Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s efforts to expand and enhance broadband connectivity in the state.