Library holding listening sessions on the future of internet in Ohio


As technology and internet access becomes increasingly important, the Wood County District Public Library will be hosting listening sessions on Wednesday to find out local needs.

The program is being conducted by the Bowling Green State University Center for Regional Development and the Toledo Lucas County Library, which was awarded a grant through BroadbandOhio to serve as a “Regional Digital Inclusion Alliance” lead for Northwest Ohio.

“We want to get a better understanding from the community about the different roadblocks and hurdles they are experiencing accessing tech,” Toledo Lucas County Library Director of Government Relations and Advocacy Lucas Camuso-Stall said. “Then were are going to collect that information and send it back to Broadband Ohio.

“Our work as an RDIA lead will help influence the state in how it makes future investments in broadband/internet connectivity and technology accessibility,” he said.

Broadband Ohio is the state holding agency for all the billions of dollars in government funds that have been allocated for tech and broadband infrastructure improvements that came about through recognition of the accessibility problem during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camuso-Stall saw first hand how access to technology, in the form of computers and broadband internet, affected the public. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were showing up at the library in record numbers to use the library’s public internet access for their jobs and to do school work.

“We have lots of stories of community members that say that in their communities they cannot get access to broadband, or the internet, or if they do have access to the internet, they can only get access to this certain upload and download speed, which really isn’t that helpful to stream Netflix, or have a Zoom call with the grandkids,” Camuso-Stall said.

He said that it’s a problem for both rural and inner-city communities. The services can be costly, but in some cases, the service isn’t available, because there are too few users in a geographic area to justify the cost of the infrastructure installation for a service provider.

“We need to put that in a data format for Broadband Ohio,” Camuso-Stall said.

The first listening session series was held in Toledo, with additional sessions taking place in Findlay, Bucyrus, Archbold, Defiance and Clyde. No RSVP is required and sessions are open to anyone.

“I’m always surprised when I hear that broadband isn’t always at the forefront of business development,” Stall said, as an example of the level of questioning that the events will be getting into.

He also expects that during the session for general community members and concerned citizens, there will be telehealth needs expressed. He already knows that there will be concerns about people getting access to health care billing and health history records, which can be a problem today, if someone doesn’t have a computer or internet access.

Wednesday’s listening schedule:

2-2:45 p.m. | Government Entities and Elected Officials

3-3:45 p.m. | Businesses and Economic Development Leaders

4-4:45 p.m. | Community Groups and Local Nonprofits

5:30-6:15 p.m. | General Community Members and Concerned Citizens

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