New Era Broadband -
Going Where No One has Gone Before
Successful businesses are born from dreams and exist to fulfill a need in their communities. In Meigs County, New Era Broadband is a perfect example.
Entrepreneurs Dave and Wendy Hannum along with their partners are in the midst of a 25 tower project that will result in state of the art broadband service available throughout Meigs County and beyond. Along the way, New Era Broadband is providing emergency services with free wireless access.
The enterprise was incorporated in 2007 and by 2009 they went online with two towers in Racine, Ohio. In 2010, a $2.9 million award from the USDA boosted their efforts to blanket the area with broadband access and provided the funding to expand their infrastructure. By the end of 2013, the project will be complete and the network will include 25 towers.
"Our plan is to have 1,200 homes with Internet - if not more," explained David Hannum. "We are making services available to more than 3,300 homes that did not have it when we applied."
Hannum has lived in Meigs County for most of his life and loves his home. However, as a web programmer he grew frustrated with the lack of Internet service available. It was virtually impossible to do his job with a dial-up connection and no DSL or cable services were being offered in the area. So, he decided to do something about it.
Initially, Hannum tried to recruit someone else to come into the area to offer wireless service. He tried three times. Eventually, it became apparent that he would be the someone to do something to solve the problem. He went into business with two partners and they consulted with the Meigs County Economic Development Office to identify funding options and for grant support. They received a low interest loan through the office from a revolving loan fund to help with bridge financing.
"Perry Varnadoe was a great help to us," Hannum said. "His office was very supportive and helped us with letters of recommendation for our proposal."
So far, the enterprise has created 11 jobs. And, as Hannum explained, the plan from the very beginning was to support local emergency services with free wireless Internet.
The first challenge came with the Bashan Volunteer Fire Department.
"They were actually losing certification," Hannum said. "The state requires online training but no one had high speed. We could not hit Basion directly, so we set up a relay or sub-network to serve that area."
The expansion includes plans to provide all area firehouses with Internet service and to give the sheriff's department access to wi-fi from each tower.
It is a service being provided free for the county - in part because of the deep love the Hannums and their partners feel for their rural, southeastern Ohio community.
"We decided this is where we wanted to raise our kids," Hannum said.
Wendy said she really enjoys the kind of small town life offered by Meigs County. A place where she says "you know all of your neighbors". She also appreciates the legends of Meigs County - its important role in history and the fascinating stories of the pioneers who lived here.