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This article was published by GCN Magazine on Jan. 12, 2017

By Stephanie Kanowitz

When Ernie Staten, deputy director of public service for Fairlawn, Ohio, had trouble getting online to do work, he knew the city had a problem.

Around the same time, Mayor William Roth was traveling to trade shows in China and Germany to find ways to bring economic development to the city of 7,500. Staten and Roth arrived at the same conclusion: They needed better internet connectivity.

Today, the city is about a third of the way through the build-out of FairlawnGig, a fiber-optic and wireless broadband network designed, operated and maintained by Fujitsu Network Communications on behalf of the city. It will give nearby residents and businesses speeds of 1 gigbit/sec to 100 gigabit/sec — more than 20 times faster than anything currently available.

“The broadband that we have is probably pretty typical for the state of Ohio. Ohio is ranked 50th now in the country, and Fairlawn was 86th in the state,” Staten said. “We were beyond the bottom of the barrel here in the city.”

That will change this fall, when the network is expected to be complete. Staten said 4,100 users are possible, although the city’s original goal was to connect 35 percent of the city. One neighborhood of 160 homes is already connected, with 75 percent of them signing up for service.

“We’re already making plans to go above the 35 percent in how we’re building it,” Staten said. “It’s a success is what I guess I’m getting at.”

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