July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Fiber-optic network construction is halfway done

MEDINA — Construction of a fiber-optic network in the county is more than halfway complete and will cost about $2 million less than expected.

The $14.4 million project involves constructing a 151-mile, 144-strand fiber-optic network to provide high-bandwidth connections to businesses and local governments.

Bethany Dentler

Earlier this month, Bethany Dentler, director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., updated county commissioners on a reduced price for pole attachment, which will save $2 million.

“Last year, when we were negotiating with one of the utility companies (FirstEnergy), they started the conversation with a price … north of 30 bucks per pole,” Dentler said. “Everyone took another look at the situation and saw because the Port Authority is a government entity, we had the right to be charged a Public Utility Commission of Ohio tariff rate. So in working through that legal discussion with FirstEnergy, we were able to secure a rate of $4.69 (per pole).”

The Medina County Port Authority would own the loop, but private businesses and public entities like schools and libraries would lease access to it. OneCommunity, a Cleveland nonprofit, is building the network, and it will handle customer agreements, Dentler said.

The loop has a “neutral platform,” which means private broadband companies also would be able to lease bandwidth.

Some customers should be able to connect as early as the middle of June, Dentler said.

The network will make two loops — one north and one south — and they will connect in Akron and Parma.

The network has been planned since 2008, but the port authority decided to put a hold on the project to wait for funding from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act to be made available.

“It made sense to take a little time and make sure we got the financing through the stimulus act,” Dentler said.

The $1.6 million stimulus grant is part of the $44.8 million OneCommunity is receiving to install 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout 27 Ohio counties. Money from the grant will be used to pay off $14.4 million in revenue development bonds that were issued by the Port Authority in December 2010. Fees from fiber network customers also will help pay off the 20-year bonds.

“We think it was a pretty good payoff to wait a couple months to save quite a bit of money in the long run,” Dentler said.

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.