In 2002, GMN (Guernsey, Monroe and Noble) Tri-County Community Action Commission became the first and only CAA in the country to receive a United States Department of Agriculture Federal Broadband Connectivity Grant, spurring a mission to address a critical gap in Southeastern Ohio by bringing broadband service to rural Monroe County. With that initial government investment, GMN’s broadband program has grown from initially serving the town of Woodsfield into a self-sustaining enterprise with seven towers and over 700 customers.

Though the majority of GMN’s broadband customers are residential (92%), the positive effects of GMN’s broadband service in this previously deprived region have widespread impacts on a variety of sectors and industries: 20 essential services – such as police, firefighters, and municipal offices – are now able to complete required reporting, communicate between departments, and streamline general operations. GMN provides broadband service free of charge to these essential services, reducing costs for municipalities experiencing budget cuts. The Black Walnut Center, an industrial business center, was revitalized by the new broadband access and is now home to several small businesses and provides a distance learning center for Belmont Technical College. The College’s ability to provide virtual and distance learning at the Black Walnut Center has allowed them to access a larger market and made higher education a more realistic possibility for many people in this rural area who struggle with transportation. GMN also maintains an open connectivity center that provides free internet and computer access to over 60 individuals per week.

One client who’s benefited from the broadband program is a retired senior citizen in the area with a modest income. He lives in an isolated and rural area and was excited when his area could receive Broadband services provided by GMN. It opened up a new world for him, even prompting him to create an online arts & crafts business, which has added to his nest egg!

With Community Action’s help and this first-of-its-kind of computer service in an isolated community, residents of this Appalachian area can stay abreast of the latest developments in the world and can stay connected.

For more information about Community Action programs in your area, visit www.oacaa.org. Note, not all Community Action Agencies offer these programs.

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