Ohio’s Broadband Expansion Bills: A Call to Action for Ohioans

Staff Report

Columbus, Ohio (October 16, 2017) – Bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives to expand broadband access in unserved areas of the Buckeye State. Both bills would provide funding to build out broadband access to more families and businesses across Ohio. It’s legislation Connect Ohio supports for its proactive approach to helping all Ohioans.

“We are woefully behind in expanding broadband access in the State of Ohio, including my district,” said Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Dist. 1). “This legislation is crucial for improving a situation that will continue to be a problem for many of my constituents if something is not done.”

“With this bill, we have the opportunity to level the playing field for rural Ohioans when it comes to vital broadband infrastructure. High speed broadband is the only way we can continue growing our economic base by attracting new commercial development and securing a strong labor force, our most valuable resource,” said Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Dist. 93).

Senate Bill 199, introduced by Senators Hite and Joe Schiavoni (D-Dist. 33), and companion House Bill 378 introduced by Representatives Smith and Jack Cera (D-Dist. 96) seek to create a $50 million per year grant program using existing funding from Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue.

“This legislation is incredibly important to Ohio’s future. Without access to broadband internet service, businesses can’t reach their customers and students,” said Sen. Schiavoni.

“Whether it is for job applications, conducting government business, shopping, accessing important medical and financial information, young people utilizing the web for their education, or keeping in touch with family, the internet has become a vital part of our everyday way of life,” said Rep. Cera. “This bill helps direct more resources for broadband service, especially in rural areas. Many parts of Ohio need broadband services and I hope passage of this bill will assist with that effort.”

If the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program is passed, the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) would award grants of up to $5 million to businesses, non-profits, co-ops, and/or political subdivisions to build broadband infrastructure in unserved areas of the state. Grants would be awarded based on applications that best address community needs, including technical support and digital literacy training, with emphasis on vital community anchor institutions.

In addition, $1 million would be available to support broadband data collection, mapping, and local broadband planning efforts to target infrastructure investments.

“Connect Ohio applauds the lawmakers who are backing both of these bills. They clearly understand what this will mean for so many Ohioans who do not have broadband internet access,” Stu Johnson, Director of Connect Ohio, said. “Access to internet is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity. Without it, families and individuals don’t have the same job, educational, and healthcare opportunities the rest of us enjoy.”

The full language of the bills is available here:

House Bill 37-https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-HB-378

Senate Bill 199-https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-SB-199

How You Can Help!

Broadband expansion is important for all Ohioans and right now is an important time for these two bills. To express your support, please find your State Representative and State Senator, and their respective contact information, via the following links:

Ohio House of Representatives: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/index

Ohio Senate: http://ohiosenate.gov/index

Connect Ohio is the local subsidiary of Connected Nation, a leading technology organization committed to bringing affordable high-speed internet and broadband-enabled resources to all Americans so no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide. The Connected Community Engagement Program works with local communities to identify the challenges and solutions to broadband expansion.

We believe everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. For more information, please visit: www.connectednation.org or follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.


Staff Report