Columbus, Ohio (April 11, 2018) – Ohio State Representatives took action today that could positively impact children, families, farmers, businesses, schools and universities, and hospitals across the Buckeye State for years to come by voting to approve House Bill 378.
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.
It passed out of the House with a 79 to 11 vote, with 9 Representatives abstaining.
“Today’s overwhelming bipartisan support of HB378 demonstrates Ohio’s resolve not to fall behind in encouraging and supporting broadband infrastructure investment, especially in the hardest to serve areas. Broadband is no longer a luxury. It is just as important as roads and bridges,” said Rep. Smith.
“It’s time for Ohio to join other states in realizing the importance of broadband and make a commitment that all of our residents have adequate access,” said Rep. Cera. “Unless we move forward on broadband, we will not move forward as a state.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, and, if passed, it would mean bringing access to the most underserved areas of Ohio. It would form a Broadband Development Grant Program overseen by the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA). The agency would award grants of up to $5 million to private businesses, political subdivisions, nonprofit entities, and co-ops to build broadband infrastructure in unserved areas of the state.
“Think about what not having access means for Ohioans,” said Stu Johnson, Executive Director of Connect Ohio, a subsidiary of Connected Nation. “Children are unable to complete their homework assignments, parents are unable to access cheaper goods or work from home to save on child care, farmers can’t monitor their crops properly or sell for the best prices, and businesses are left unable to compete.”
Johnson as well as representatives from Ohio universities and economic development groups testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee throughout eight public hearings emphasizing the importance of supporting HB 378 and expanding broadband across the state.
“It is not unusual for residents of Appalachia to travel more than an hour and a half for common specialty health care needs,” Richard Hodges, a visiting professor at Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, said in his testimony before the committee. “Technology offers solutions to the health care access problems facing Appalachia. But the lack of broadband service is a considerable barrier to extending the benefits of technology to people in that area.”
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.
“This bill is absolutely critical to Ohio’s future. There is not one sector of society that is not impacted by access to broadband,” Johnson told the committee members. “When you expand broadband, you expand the possibilities of Ohioans who can improve their lives with access to health care resources, government services, education, economic opportunities and more. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.”
For more on HB 378, head to https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-HB-378.
Contact: Stuart Johnson, Connect Ohio
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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:
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