Columbus, Ohio (March 20, 2018) – House Bill 378 moved out of the Ohio House Finance Committee today with tremendous bipartisan support and is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives tomorrow during the regular session.
The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Representatives Ryan Smith (R-Dist. 93) and Jack Cera (D-Dist. 96), seeks to create a $50 million per annum grant program for broadband expansion projects and programs throughout Ohio using existing funding through the Ohio Third Frontier bond revenue.
“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,” said Rep. Smith.
“Whether it is for job applications, conducting government business, shopping, accessing important medical and financial information or 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.”
Following the introduction of HB 378, Connect Ohio’s Executive Director, Stu Johnson, testified before lawmakers sharing the frustrations residents and businesses across the state experience by being left out of the opportunities provided by broadband and a digital world. Connect Ohio is a subsidiary of Connected Nation, a national nonprofit working across the country to close the Digital Divide and bring access to unserved and underserved populations.
“I have worked extensively in both urban and rural Ohio communities to bring connectivity to our citizens,” Johnson said during his testimony given on December 12, 2017. “I’ve talked with parents, seniors, farmers, students, and many others about their technology use and needs, and I can tell you that broadband is no longer a luxury. It’s a vital lifeline to participation in society—just as critical as our roads, bridges, water, and electricity.”
More than 300,000 households in rural Ohio have no broadband access at all. An additional 2.1 million households are served by only a single broadband provider, meaning that more than half of all Ohio households either have no provider choice or no access at all. In Appalachia, the Digital Divide is even more pronounced, where nearly 1 in 4 households have no access beyond costly satellite and slow dial-up service.
“I believe, as does the staff at Connected Nation which has worked across the country to bring broadband to unserved and underserved areas, that House Bill 378 would go a long way toward bridging Ohio’s Digital Divide,” Johnson said. “Modeled after Minnesota’s successful Border-to-Boarder Broadband Development Grant Program, this bill rewards creative ways to stretch dollars and build out service to as many people as possible, while also protecting against potential duplication with providers that have plans to expand access in the next two years.”
The bill also prioritizes service to unserved community institutions like schools, police and fire stations, and hospitals. For more information, head to HB 378.
Connect Ohio is the local subsidiary of Connected Nation: Our mission is to improve lives by providing innovation solutions that expand access, adoption, and use of high-speed internet and its related technology to all people. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.
Connected Nation works with consumers, local community leaders, states, technology providers, and foundations to develop and implement technology expansion programs with core competencies centered on a mission to improve digital inclusion for people and places previously underserved or overlooked. For more information, please visit: Connected Nation and follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.
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