MARIETTA - Washington County is moving forward with a company that will provide high-speed Internet service for businesses and residents in portions of the county currently underserved or without service.
The process of bringing broadband access to remote Washington County areas has been in the works for more than seven years, according to County Commissioner Tim Irvine.
Mark Heitman of Fleming, 45, lives in a rural location that is one-half mile beyond high-speed cable access and one mile beyond DSL (dial-up) service.
"I use a 3G wireless device with a small limit on what I can use per month, and it's expensive," Heitman said.
Donna Hutchinson of Fleming, 72, who is a home-based director for the international wellness company Melaleuca, said she doesn't understand why it is taking so long to get high-speed Internet access where she lives.
"It would probably be a bigger undertaking than we (residents) would think it would be," noted Hutchinson.
Currently, about 6,000 Washington County homes and businesses are without access to high-speed Internet.
When Marietta-based Smart Networks completes all phases of its Washington County project, more than 92 percent of the county will be covered by Smart Networks service, said Chad Henson, co-founder and COO of Smart Networks.
Heitman said he is thrilled to have Smart Networks offer service to his home.
"I'm willing to be their first guinea pig," said Heitman, laughingly.
For Heitman, his wife and two children in sixth and seventh grades, having access to high-speed Internet is almost a necessity in today's world.
"While the library is accessible, there are a lot of resources online that (my children) don't have relatively easy access to," Heitman said.
According to Henson, many in Washington County are confused about why Smart Networks' initial work is being done in Marietta.
"That's our head-end, where we feed all the towers throughout the county," noted Henson.
Work in Marietta is already under way and expected to be completed by the end of September.
This first phase of Smart Networks' project, which will include deployment of wireless Internet equipment to the county's six MARCS tower sites, is scheduled for completion at the end of January.
For businesses, Smart Networks will offer its customizable Metro Ethernet service for $49.95 and up per month.
The cost for Smart Networks' 4G WiMax service for residents will be $29.95 to $59.95 per month. Both are subject to change, according to the company.
"(The cost is) dependent on the speed of the service," Henson said. "Just like with Suddenlink, the lower the speed the more affordable the price."
Lisa Flowers of Little Hocking, 45, said she sees Smart Networks' high-speed service as a way to give up the landline, or traditional phone, in her home.
"I'd probably spend a little bit more time (online), not be as frustrated and probably save some money, too," she said.
Bill Cochran of Oak Grove recently switched from a dial-up Internet service to an unlimited package with Verizon Wireless.
"I wouldn't change to try something new," noted Cochran. "If I saved $20 a month, I would do it."