Ohio rural internet access

David Lepley and his neighbors always struggled to find reliable internet.

When the Huron County Farm Bureau member received information about Amplex Internet, he decided to check out what the company had to offer. Pretty quickly Amplex learned Lepley had something to offer as well.

“They noticed we had a grain leg tall enough to make a tower for them,” Lepley said. The grain leg had an area large enough to secure equipment that would not only help the Lepleys, but also many of their neighbors in the area. Helping the community out was a motivating factor for Lepley, who at the time served as a Lyme Township trustee.

The installation was made with no interruption to regular farming business, Lepley said.

“We don’t even know the equipment is there,” he said. “It was seamless. It was a big plus for the whole neighborhood.”

Serving underserved areas

Since its beginning, Amplex Internet has been committed to providing internet service to underserved areas, aligning its mission with the mission of Ohio Farm Bureau. A Farm Bureau group member, Amplex, based in Luckey, Ohio, delivers affordable and reliable broadband and fiber optic internet access to numerous households and businesses across the region — a connectivity game-changer in northwest Ohio.

Established in the 1960s, Amplex initially operated as an electrical contractor before evolving into an electrical engineering firm. The company’s entrance into internet service began when one of the owners, upon moving to Luckey, Ohio, noticed the lack of available internet service, prompting them to take matters into their own hands.

Amplex Internet
An integral aspect of Amplex’s strategy involves installing towers and signals on grain bins in northwest Ohio, significantly impacting connectivity in the region.

“Wi-Fi service was in its infancy, but we were able to modify indoor wireless equipment, add large antennas, and use them to deliver service over large outdoor areas,” said Mark Radabaugh, owner and president of Amplex Internet.

Amplex started providing internet service in 1997 and quickly realized that they did not know as much as they thought. Through dedication and hard work, they learned quickly and expanded their service area to Toledo and Bowling Green. Business grew rapidly from 1995 to 2003, initially offering dial-up services, and then transitioning to broadband services in 2003, when internet connectivity was shifting from on-demand, dial-up to always-on connections provided by cable companies and traditional phone providers over DSL lines.

“At that time, broadband was defined as 0.2Mbps download and 0.2Mbps upload speeds,” said Radabaugh. “Broadband standards have since evolved, currently defined as 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload. A pending revision will likely set broadband as 100Mbps download and 20Mbps for upload speeds.”

According to Radabaugh, when Amplex started offering broadband at 0.384Mbps, it cost $49.95. Today, they have service plans from $54.95, with their fastest service being 2000Mbps for $120.

Grain bins impact connectivity

An integral aspect of Amplex’s strategy involves installing towers and signals on grain bins in northwest Ohio, significantly impacting connectivity in the region. Collaborating with farmers, Amplex reaches agreements to use their grain bins for tower installations, fostering mutually beneficial trade relationships.

“We have a pretty simple agreement worked out with farmers for locations where the vertical height would be of benefit to an area,” said Radabaugh. “Many of these are trade relationships that benefit both parties.”

As Amplex shifts toward fiber optic technology, they are exploring additional opportunities alongside their existing fixed wireless infrastructure. The company is actively expanding its fiber network to tower sites, residential areas, and businesses. Currently servicing around 8,000 homes with fiber, Amplex aims to reach over 70,000 additional locations over the next five years.

While facing competition in the fiber services market, Amplex distinguishes itself with a focus on rural areas. Unlike many companies awaiting government funding, Amplex has been proactively investing in its communities with internal funds for several years.

“We believe reinvesting in our communities is a better business model,” Radabaugh emphasized. “Taking care of our customers is critical to being able to continue expanding when we are relying on reinvestment for buildout.”

As for Lepley, the only perk he agreed to when Amplex offered it in exchange for installing equipment on his grain leg is one that he said is worth its weight in gold.

“They offered us free internet, and with it, access to the world,” he said. “It’s made a huge difference for us. It is great to see a private business work in a grassroots way with us.”

Photos by Dave Liggett

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