June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

High-speed network finished

Business and the development community celebrated a milestone in local infrastructure Friday morning: The completion of the Medina County Fiber Network.

“The monopoly is dead. Long live the fiber loop,” said Jim Gerspacher, secretary of the Medina County Port Authority at a breakfast celebrating the completion of the $14.4 million project.

The Port Authority owns the 151-mile, 144-strand fiber-optic network that can provide high-bandwidth connections to businesses, local governments, schools and libraries.

Gerspacher said development leaders in Medina County have been working for more than a decade to make the fiber-optic loop a reality. The loop will allow businesses to connect to high-speed cable and voice services, and, more importantly, open the door for competition among service providers.

“We’re trying to create a level platform,” he said.

Keeping prices low helps generate business growth, he said, and also saves money for the schools and government agencies that connect to it.

Highland Schools signed up for the service last year and Brunswick City Council is poised to sign a five-year agreement. Brunswick hopes to save nearly $100,000 over the course of the five-year agreement.

“If we have the schools and the libraries hooked into it, then we’re also saving the public money,” Gerspacher said.

OneCommunity, a Cleveland nonprofit, built the network and will handle customer agreements, Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., has said.

The network was a collaboration of local business and economic development leaders and elected officials, Dentler said. The project was funded with $14.4 million in bonds backed by the cities of Brunswick, Medina and Wadsworth, villages of Seville and Westfield Center and Cascade Capital Corp. The bonds will be paid off over 20 years through network user fees.

“From conducting feasibility studies, to designing and engineering the network, to putting together a very creative financing package and obtaining the support of multiple local governments, it has indeed taken a village to raise a fiber network,” Dentler said.

Automation Tool and Die in Brunswick is one of 20 entities already tied into the fiber network. The network provides better service to the company’s four buildings in Brunswick’s Northern Industrial Park, said Jacob Mohoric, company IT manager.

“It’s a blazing-fast Internet connection at all four of our buildings at an effective cost,” Mohoric said.

Company co-owner J. Randy Bennett said the network provided the first decent bandwidth for his company since it moved to Brunswick in 1983.

“We had no good bandwidth source and we paid through the nose for what we did have,” Bennett said.

The fiber-optic loop connects to Medina from Akron along state Route 18. The network loops around Medina, and then runs out to Lodi, Westfield Center and Wadsworth, north from Wadsworth up through Hinckley Township, and then west through Brunswick and continues north to connect with fiber-optic lines in Parma.

Dentler said the 151 miles of line through Medina County are a source of pride for the community and a unique collaborative investment in infrastructure.

“The best part is that this network belongs to all of us,” she said. “Not just the Medina Port Authority, not just the Medina County Economic Development Corp., but it’s a publicly owned network that belongs to the entire Medina community.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.