As working from home continues, residents look for ways to help people upgrade internet services

Growing tired of the lagging internet speed at his home near Fort Loramie, Tony Bornhorst plans to switch internet service providers. He suspects other people in the community face similar issues but fears some can't afford an upgrade.

 

Bornhorst says he and his wife, Joyce, won't have any problems paying the extra $20 or so each month to increase their bandwidth from 3 megabits per second to 6 megabits per second. They probably would make the switch even if he wasn't working from home more often.

 

“It will be well worth it if we actually get [that] speed,” Bornhorst, a farmer and Shelby County commissioner, says

 

Like many county employees, Bornhorst has worked from home more often during the COVID-19 pandemic though he still goes into his office in downtown Sidney multiple times a week.

While working from home has had some benefits such as saving on gas money and less time spent traveling to meetings, it's also presented some challenges. The slow internet speeds at his home in rural southwest Ohio — a test his son-in-law performed showed the speed at 0.8 megabits per second, significantly slower than the advertised rate — has caused difficulties at times in accessing emails and has led to virtual meetings freezing or becoming garbled.

 

“If your screen freezes up, you're losing a bit of the conversation,” Bornhorst says.

Other county employees have reported similar problems with internet connectivity at their homes.

 

“I've not heard anybody say they can't work at home,” he says. “I just know it makes it more interesting.”

 

They haven't made any decisions yet, but the commissioners have started to consider the implications of having county employees work from home.

 

If employees' internet isn't fast enough to work from home, should the county pay to upgrade their bandwidth? If employees exceed their data cap while working from home, should the county pay the overage charges?

 

“It may be something we may have to consider if this becomes the new norm,” Bornhorst says.

 

Bornhorst anticipates internet connectivity will continue to be an ongoing issue. Broadband internet is widely available throughout Shelby County, but he worries some people can't afford it.

 

“Stepping up another $20 a month is difficult,” he says, “and causes strain at other places of the household budget.”

About the project: Your Voice Ohio is the largest sustained, statewide media collaborative in the nation. Launched nearly five years ago, more than 60 news outlets have participated in unique, community-focused coverage of elections, addiction, racial equity, the economy, and housing. Nearly 1,300 Ohioans have engaged with more than 100 journalists in dozens of urban, rural, and suburban communities across the state. Over and over again, Ohioans have helped journalists understand their perspectives and experiences while sharing ideas to strengthen their local communities and the state. Doug Oplinger, formerly of the Akron Beacon Journal, leads the media collaboration. The Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Facebook are the primary funders of Your Voice Ohio. The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Practices, a non-partisan non-profit engagement research organization, designs and facilitates Your Voice Ohio community conversations.

 

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