Legislation Aims to Bridge the Digital Divide for 300,000 Ohio Households
Today, the Ohio Senate Finance committee heard testimony on a bill that would bring broadband internet to students, businesses, hospitals and communities in rural areas across Ohio. Senate Bill 225, Create Ohio Broadband Development Grant Program, was introduced by Senators Joe Schiavoni and John Eckland. This bipartisan bill would provide funding for broadband improvement projects in sparsely populated areas across Ohio, allowing our state to remain competitive nationally. In today’s world, internet access is often taken for granted and is necessary for school work, businesses, telemedicine and everyday living. This bill would close the gap in access that exists for nearly one million people and 88,500 business that have been overlooked for too long by major telecommunications corporations with monetary interests. SB 225 would direct $50 million in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 from the Third Frontier program to subsidize local public and private sector infrastructure projects in Ohio’s rural areas. Businesses, non-profits, co-ops or political subdivisions would receive the funding to bring this vital service to schools, businesses, hospitals and government services. A similar grant program was enacted in Minnesota and a similar bill in the Ohio House, HB 378, passed and has been sent to the Ohio Senate for consideration. Today, 4 out of 5 students complete school work online and businesses rely on the internet to do their day-to-day work. This bill would keep Ohio’s children from falling behind and teach them the skills that are required in the workplace today and in the future. According to Connect Ohio, 300,000 households across the state have no broadband access. For these households, government and other vital services, like OhioMeansJobs, operate online without the consideration of how these citizens are going to access them. In the Digital Age, SB 225 is a common-sense piece of legislation that would help Ohio remain competitive nationally, and help these students, families and businesses fulfill their economic potential.