Buckeye Hills Regional Council launches interactive Wi-Fi hotspot map

April 21, 2020

Buckeye Hills Regional Council has launched a new tool to find and share verified Wi-Fi hotspot locations in southeast Ohio. Amid the stay-at-home orders and school closures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, this tool can help with everyday tasks including completion of research and classroom assignments, searching and applying for benefits and relief, and taking advantage of telehealth appointments.

The map may be accessed at buckeyehills.org/wifi.

“Our Development staff have worked together to equip the public with the information to find known Wi-Fi hotspot locations throughout our region,” says Bret Allphin, Development Director at Buckeye Hills Regional Council.

“Additionally, we now have a mechanism for the public to share verified Wi-Fi hotspot information with others, so they can use the resource as well. Our Mapping & Data team at Buckeye Hills Regional Council have created this tool to enable people to submit known Wi-Fi hotspot location information on a map that can be accessed by others.”

The tool is a web mapping application that includes verified Wi-Fi hotspot locations throughout the Buckeye Hills region of Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry, and Washington counties. It enables people to search by address and find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot location(s) within a 25-mile distance. Additionally, users may add a Wi-Fi hotspot to the map with just a few clicks and by entering in the required information.

“The goal is for this to become an authoritative, ‘living resource’ for the communities we serve,” says Dru Sexton, GIS Specialist at Buckeye Hills Regional Council. “Our hope is not only for it to be a useful, valuable resource, but also to aide us in our continued quest to attain reliable high-speed broadband internet connectivity for every resident in the Buckeye Hills region.”

Additional questions about Wi-Fi hotspot locations, as well as questions about this application, the data, or suggestions and issues may be sent to Buckeye Hills GIS Specialist Dru Sexton, MS, GISP (dsexton@buckeyehills.org) or GIS Coordinator Jason Pyles, GISP (jpyles@buckeyehills.org).

In 2019, Buckeye Hills Regional Council conducted an eight-county study funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission in collaboration with Ohio University and The Athens County Economic Development Council.  The findings present a stark picture of the areas left behind in a digital desert:

  • Between 80% and 90% of households in the “rural expanse” have no access to broadband services. (“Rural Expanse” defined as areas with 20 or fewer households per square mile.)

  • 75% of the study area lacks availability of broadband at the current FCC minimum of 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

  • Mobile data and voice services are also largely absent from the rural expanse.

  • Degradation of basic telephone services due to beyond end-of-life- copper cables is leaving affected areas without crucial life & safety communications, reverting to the 1930s, in terms of capabilities.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council continues to shed light on the lack of adequate access to reliable high speed, broadband internet connectivity throughout southeast Ohio and advocate for the region’s broadband connectivity at the state and federal levels.

“The stakes are high,” notes Allphin. “In the same way that the Rural Electrification Act transformed rural southeast Ohio communities in the 1930s and the Interstate Highway System reshaped our economy 30 years later, broadband access, or the lack thereof, will shape our region’s economic participation and outcomes for generations.”